Depression in Parkinson's disease: brainstem midline alteration on transcranial sonography and magnetic resonance imaging

J Neurol. 1999 Dec;246(12):1186-93. doi: 10.1007/s004150050541.


Recent studies using transcranial sonography (TCS) have provided evidence of alterations in the mesencephalic midline structures in patients with unipolar depression and depression in Parkinson's disease (PD), suggesting an involvement of the basal limbic system in primary and secondary mood disorders. This study tested the hypothesis of brainstem midline abnormality in depression and investigated 31 PD patients by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and TCS. Signal intensity of the pontine and mesencephalic brainstem midline was rated on T2-weighted images and measured by relaxometry. In addition, two blinded investigators assessed the echogenicity of the brainstem midline by TCS. The severity of motor symptoms and depression were graded independently using standard research scales. Rating of signal intensity and T2 relaxometry of the pontomesencephalic midline structures revealed significant difference between depressed and nondepressed PD patients (P < 0.05). This corresponded to a significant reduction in mesencephalic midline echogenicity of depressed PD patients on TCS images. No correlation was found between raphe signal intensity, T2 relaxation times, or TCS echogenicity and the severity of motor symptoms or depression. This study is the first to show changes in signal intensity and T2 relaxation time of the pontomesencephalic midline structures on MRI in depressed PD patients confirming previous TCS findings. As these midline structures comprise fiber tracts and nuclei of the basal limbic system, the findings may support the hypothesis of an alteration in the basal limbic system in mood disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Stem / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Stem / pathology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial*