Differential involvement of striato- and cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathways in tremor- and akinetic/rigid-predominant Parkinson's disease

Neuroscience. 2011 Mar 17;177:230-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.12.060. Epub 2011 Jan 4.


Parkinson's disease (PD) presents clinically with varying degrees of resting tremor, rigidity, and bradykinesia. For decades, striatal-thalamo-cortical (STC) dysfunction has been implied in bradykinesia and rigidity, but does not explain resting tremor in PD. To understand the roles of cerebello-thalamo-cortical (CTC) and STC circuits in the pathophysiology of the heterogeneous clinical presentation of PD, we collected functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from 17 right-handed PD patients [nine tremor predominant (PDT) and eight akinetic-rigidity predominant (PDAR)] and 14 right-handed controls while they performed internally-guided (IG) sequential finger tapping tasks. The percentage of voxels activated in regions constituting the STC and CTC [divided as cerebellar hemisphere-thalamo-cortical (CHTC) and vermis-thalamo-cortical (CVTC)] circuits was calculated. Multivariate analysis of variance compared the activation patterns of these circuits between study groups. Compared to controls, both PDAR and PDT subjects displayed an overall increase in the percentage of voxels activated in both STC and CTC circuits. These increases reached statistical significance in contralateral STC and CTC circuits for PDT subjects, and in contralateral CTC pathways for PDAR subjects. Comparison of PDAR and PDT subjects revealed significant differences in ipsilateral STC (P=0.005) and CTC (P=0.043 for CHTC and P=0.003 for CVTC) circuits. These data support the differential involvement of STC and CTC circuits in PD subtypes, and help explain the heterogeneous presentation of PD symptoms. These findings underscore the importance of integrating CTC circuits in understanding PD and other disorders of the basal ganglia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebellum / metabolism*
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Rigidity / etiology
  • Muscle Rigidity / metabolism*
  • Muscle Rigidity / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology
  • Tremor / etiology
  • Tremor / metabolism*
  • Tremor / physiopathology