Introduction: Cortical brain atrophy detectable with MRI in non-demented advanced Parkinson's disease (PD) is well characterized, but its presence in early disease stages is still under debate. We aimed to investigate cortical atrophy patterns in a large sample of early untreated PD patients using a hypothesis-free data-driven approach.
Methods: Seventy-seven de novo PD patients and 50 controls from the Parkinson's Progression Marker Initiative database with T1-weighted images in a 3-tesla Siemens scanner were included in this study. Mean cortical thickness was extracted from 360 cortical areas defined by the Human Connectome Project Multi-Modal Parcellation version 1.0, and a hierarchical cluster analysis was performed using Ward's linkage method. A general linear model with cortical thickness data was then used to compare clustering groups using FreeSurfer software.
Results: We identified two patterns of cortical atrophy. Compared with controls, patients grouped in pattern 1 (n = 33) were characterized by cortical thinning in bilateral orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate, and lateral and medial anterior temporal gyri. Patients in pattern 2 (n = 44) showed cortical thinning in bilateral occipital gyrus, cuneus, superior parietal gyrus, and left postcentral gyrus, and they showed neuropsychological impairment in memory and other cognitive domains.
Conclusions: Even in the early stages of PD, there is evidence of cortical brain atrophy. Neuroimaging clustering analysis is able to detect two subgroups of cortical thinning, one with mainly anterior atrophy, and the other with posterior predominance and worse cognitive performance.
Keywords: Cluster analysis; Cortical atrophy; Early parkinson disease; Magnetic resonance imaging; PPMI.
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