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New Brain Scan for Parkinson’s

New Brain Scan for Parkinson'sWhile discovery of a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease that would let physicians screen for or track its progression remains an elusive goal, scientists have discovered a noninvasive brain scanning technique that offers promise.

The tool may also help advance the development of new drugs or neuroprotective agents to treat or ward off Parkinson’s. The findings, now online, will appear in a forthcoming issue of Neurology.

David Vaillancourt, assistant professor of kinesiology at University of Illinois at Chicago, along with colleagues from UIC and Rush University, used a type of MRI scan called diffusion tensor imaging on 28 subjects, half with early symptoms of Parkinson’s and the other half without.

They scanned an area of the brain called the substantia nigra, a cluster of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Parkinson’s patients have been found to have about half the number of dopaminergic neurons in certain areas of the substantia nigra as those without the disease.

Determining loss of dopaminergic neurons using conventional methods such as metabolic PET scans is expensive, invasive, and requires injection of radioactive tracer chemicals. But the method studied by Vaillancourt and his group is noninvasive, relatively inexpensive, and does not use radioactive tracers.

“We’re suggesting it’s possible to eventually diagnose Parkinson’s disease noninvasively and objectively by examining the part of the brain thought to underlie the causes of the disease,” said Vaillancourt. No tool currently available can do that, he said.

The researchers say the technique may also help develop neuroprotective agents to treat Parkinson’s. Vaillancourt said it’s difficult to identify a neuroprotective agent using current measures because the results are skewed by any therapy used to treat symptoms.

“When you have a symptomatic effect of the neuroprotective agent, you need a lot of patients from multiple centers to determine if the neuroprotective agent works,” he said.

“But if you have a disease marker not affected by a dopaminergic therapy, then you would be able to test neuroprotective agents among smaller groups.”

Vaillancourt thinks that would enable faster development of drugs to treat Parkinson’s. He noted that while the technique his group studied works well as a trait biomarker, which allows for diagnosis, it has not yet been shown to measure the state of the disease’s progression. Further research is planned.

The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

New Brain Scan for Parkinson’s

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). New Brain Scan for Parkinson’s. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/03/25/new-brain-scan-for-parkinsons/4950.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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