Purpose: The aim of the study was to determine the usefulness of diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) in parkinsonian disorders using a recently developed method for normalization of diffusion data and tract size along white matter tracts. Furthermore, the use of DTT in selected white matter tracts for differential diagnosis was assessed.
Methods: We quantified global and regional diffusion parameters in major white matter tracts in patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA), progressive nuclear palsy (PSP), idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD) and healthy controls). Diffusion tensor imaging data sets with whole brain coverage were acquired at 3 T using 48 diffusion encoding directions and a voxel size of 2×2×2 mm(3). DTT of the corpus callosum (CC), cingulum (CG), corticospinal tract (CST) and middle cerebellar peduncles (MCP) was performed using multiple regions of interest. Regional evaluation comprised projection of fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), radial diffusivity (RD) and the apparent area coefficient (AAC) onto a calculated mean tract and extraction of their values along each structure.
Results: There were significant changes of global DTT parameters in the CST (MSA and PSP), CC (PSP) and CG (PSP). Consistent tract-specific variations in DTT parameters could be seen along each tract in the different patient groups and controls. Regional analysis demonstrated significant changes in the anterior CC (MD, RD and FA), CST (MD) and CG (AAC) of patients with PSP compared to controls. Increased MD in CC and CST, as well as decreased AAC in CG, was correlated with a diagnosis of PSP compared to IPD.
Conclusions: DTT can be used for demonstrating disease-specific regional white matter changes in parkinsonian disorders. The anterior portion of the CC was identified as a promising region for detection of neurodegenerative changes in patients with PSP, as well as for differential diagnosis between PSP and IPD.