Reduction in Volume of Nucleus Basalis of Meynert Is Specific to Parkinson's Disease and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy but Not to Multiple System Atrophy

Front Aging Neurosci. 2022 Apr 1:14:851788. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.851788. eCollection 2022.


Objectives: To study in vivo gray matter (GM) volumes of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (nbM) in different parkinsonian syndromes and assess their relationship with clinical variables.

Methods: T1-weighted magnetic resonance images from patients with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP, N = 43), multiple system atrophy (MSA, N = 23), Parkinson's disease (PD, N = 26), and healthy controls (HC, N = 29) were included. T1-weighted images were analyzed using a voxel-based morphometry approach implemented in the VBM8 toolbox, and nbM volumes were extracted from the spatially normalized GM images using a cyto-architectonically-defined nbM mask in stereotactic standard space. NbM volumes were compared between groups, while controlling for intracranial volume. Further, within each group correlation analyses between nbM volumes and the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE), Hoehn and Yahr stage, PSP Rating Scale, Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale part III and Frontal Assessment Battery scores were performed.

Results: Significantly lower nbM volumes in patients with PSP and PD compared to HC or patients with MSA were found. No significant correlations between MMSE and nbM volumes were detected in any of the subgroups. No significant correlations were found between clinical scores and nbM volumes in PSP or other groups.

Conclusion: nbM volumes were reduced both in PD and PSP but not in MSA. The lack of significant correlations between nbM and cognitive measures suggests that other factors, such as frontal atrophy, may play a more important role than subcortical cholinergic atrophy in PSP patients. These results may indicate that other drug-targets are needed to improve cognitive function in PSP patients.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; cholinergic innervation; multiple system atrophy; nucleus basalis of Meynert; progressive supranuclear palsy; subcortical dementia; voxel-based morphometry.