The value of novel MRI techniques in Parkinson-plus syndromes: Diffusion tensor imaging and anatomical connectivity studies

M. Tir*, C. Delmaire, P. Besson, L. Defebvre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Conventional MRI is a well-described, highly useful tool for the differential diagnosis of degenerative parkinsonian syndromes. Nevertheless, the observed abnormalities may only appear in late-stage disease. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can identify microstructural changes in brain tissue integrity and connectivity. The technique has proven value in the differential diagnosis of multiple system atrophy (MSA), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Here, we performed a systematic review of the literature on the main corticosubcortical DTI abnormalities identified to date in the context of the diagnosis of MSA and PSP with diffusion-weighted imaging, diffusion tensor imaging and anatomical connectivity studies. In good agreement with the histological data, increased diffusivity in the putamen (in MSA and PSP), in the middle cerebellar peduncles (in MSA) and in the upper cerebellar peduncles (in PSP) has been reported. Motor pathway involvement is characterized by low fraction anisotropy (FA) in the primary motor cortex in MSA-P and PSP, a high apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and low FA in the supplementary motor area in PSP. We then outline the value of these techniques in differential diagnosis (especially with respect to PD). Anatomical connectivity studies have revealed a lower number of fibers in the corticospinal tract in MSA and PSP (relative to PD and controls) and fewer tracked cortical projection fibers in patients with PSP or late-stage MSA (relative to patients with early MSA or PD and controls). Lastly, we report the main literature data concerning the value of DTI parameters in monitoring disease progression. The observed correlations between DTI parameters on one hand and clinical scores and/or disease duration on the other constitute strong evidence of the value of DTI in monitoring disease progression. In MSA, the ataxia score was correlated with ADC values in the pons and the upper cerebellar peduncles, whereas both the motor score and the disease duration were correlated with putaminal ADC values. In conclusion, DTI and connectivity studies constitute promising tools for differentiating between "Parkinson-plus" syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-276
Number of pages11
JournalRevue Neurologique
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Connectivity
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Parkinson-plus syndrome
  • Parkinsonian syndromes
  • Tractography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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