Magnetic resonance imaging of the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease

Mov Disord. 2012 Jun;27(7):822-30. doi: 10.1002/mds.25015. Epub 2012 May 30.


Until recently, conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was most often negative in Parkinson's disease or showed nonspecific findings. Recent developments in structural MRI, including relaxometry, magnetization transfer, and neuromelanin imaging, have demonstrated improved contrast and enabled more accurate visualization of deep brain nuclei, in particular, the substantia nigra. Meanwhile, diffusion imaging has provided useful biomarkers of substantia nigra degeneration, showing reduced anisotropy and anatomical connectivity with the striatum and thalamus. These advances in structural imaging are complemented by findings of magnetic resonance spectroscopy on brain metabolism and resting-state functional MRI on functional connectivity. This article presents an overview of these new structural, metabolic, and resting-state functional MRI techniques and their implications for Parkinson's disease. The techniques are reviewed in the context of their potential for better understanding the disease in terms of diagnosis and pathophysiology and as biomarkers of its progression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Relaxation
  • Substantia Nigra / pathology*