There is a growing need for surrogate biomarkers for Parkinson's disease (PD). Structural analysis using magnetic resonance imaging with T1-weighted sequences has the potential to quantify histopathological changes. Degeneration is typically measured by the volume and shape of morphological changes. However, these changes appear late in the disease, preventing their use as surrogate markers. We investigated texture changes in 108 individuals, divided into three groups, matched in terms of sex and age: (1) healthy controls (n = 32); (2) patients with early-stage PD (n = 39); and (3) patients with late-stage PD and severe L-dopa-related complications (n = 37). All patients were assessed in off-treatment conditions. Statistical analysis of first- and second-order texture features was conducted in the substantia nigra, striatum, thalamus and sub-thalamic nucleus. Regions of interest volumetry and voxel-based morphometry were performed for comparison. Significantly different texture features were observed between the three populations, with some showing a gradual linear progression between the groups. The volumetric changes in the two PD patient groups were not significantly different. Texture features were significantly associated with clinical scores for motor handicap. These results suggest that texture features, measured in the nigrostriatal pathway at PD diagnosis, may be useful in predicting clinical progression of motor handicap.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02360683.