We mapped the distribution of atrophy in Parkinson's disease (PD) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical data from 232 PD patients and 117 controls from the Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative. Deformation-based morphometry and independent component analysis identified PD-specific atrophy in the midbrain, basal ganglia, basal forebrain, medial temporal lobe, and discrete cortical regions. The degree of atrophy reflected clinical measures of disease severity. The spatial pattern of atrophy demonstrated overlap with intrinsic networks present in healthy brain, as derived from functional MRI. Moreover, the degree of atrophy in each brain region reflected its functional and anatomical proximity to a presumed disease epicenter in the substantia nigra, compatible with a trans-neuronal spread of the disease. These results support a network-spread mechanism in PD. Finally, the atrophy pattern in PD was also seen in healthy aging, where it also correlated with the loss of striatal dopaminergic innervation.
Keywords: MRI; basal ganglia; deformation-based morphometry; human; independent component analysis; neuroscience; substantia nigra.