Neurodegeneration in clinically manifest Parkinson's disease affects the substantia nigra pars compacta, and gradually spreads to the limbic cortices and the neocortex. We used MRI imaging coupled with automated surface reconstruction and segmentation methods to examine cortical thickness and subcortical volumes in nondemented, early-stage Parkinson's disease patients compared to matched healthy control participants. These methods, which have been previously used to document cortical thickness changes in patients with Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease but not Parkinson's disease, use MR signal intensity information and the geometric constraints of the cortical and subcortical structures for an accurate tissue classification. Parkinson's disease patients were matched to the control group in psychomotor processing speed and executive functioning, but showed higher anxiety state scores. Our results demonstrated focal cortical thinning in the Parkinson's disease group in the orbitofrontal cortex, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, and occipito-parietal areas. Subcortically, striatal volume loss was noted. These results demonstrate that both cortical and subcortical structural changes occur at relatively early stages of the disease, and are discussed in terms of the emotional dysregulation that occurs early on in patients with Parkinson's disease.
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