Imaging of Motor Cortex Physiology in Parkinson's Disease

Mov Disord. 2018 Nov;33(11):1688-1699. doi: 10.1002/mds.102. Epub 2018 Oct 2.


There is abundant evidence that the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease (PD) is not confined to the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway but propagates along the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical neural network. A critical node in this functional circuit impacted by PD is the primary motor cortex (M1), which plays a key role in generating neural impulses that regulate movements. The past several decades have lay witness to numerous in vivo neuroimaging techniques that provide a window into the function and structure of M1. A consistent observation from numerous studies is that during voluntary movement, but also at rest, the functional activity of M1 is altered in PD relative to healthy individuals, and it relates to many of the motor signs. Although this abnormal functional activity can be partially restored with acute dopaminergic medication, it continues to deteriorate with disease progression and may predate structural degeneration of M1. The current review discusses the evidence that M1 is fundamental to the pathophysiology of PD, as measured by neuroimaging techniques such as positron emission tomography, single-photon emission computed tomography, electroencephalography, magnetoencephalography, and functional and structural MRI. Although novel treatments that target the cortex will not cure PD, they could significantly slow down and alter the progressive course of the disease and thus improve clinical care for this degenerative disease. © 2018 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; electrophysiology; functional imaging; primary motor cortex; structural imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / diagnostic imaging
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Neuroimaging*
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*