Neuroanatomy and Functional Connectivity in Patients with Parkinson's Disease with or without Restless Legs Syndrome

Neurol Ther. 2022 Dec;11(4):1625-1636. doi: 10.1007/s40120-022-00397-x. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Introduction: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common non-motor symptom in Parkinson's disease (PD), but its pathogenesis remains unclear. This study aimed to explore the potential neural substrates of RLS in a large sample of patients with PD.

Methods: A total of 42 patients with PD with RLS and 124 patients with PD without RLS were prospectively recruited at our hospital between February 2019 and October 2020 and underwent structural and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Differences between the two patient groups were assessed using voxel-based morphometry and functional connectivity analysis. PD duration, Part III of the Movement Disorder Society's Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS-III) score, and levodopa equivalent daily dose were treated as covariates.

Results: Patients with PD with RLS had significantly larger gray matter volume in the bilateral posterior cingulate cortex than patients with PD without RLS (FDR-adjusted P < 0.05). Compared to patients without RLS, those with RLS had significantly lower functional connectivity between the left central opercular cortex and the bilateral precentral gyri and postcentral gyri (FDR-adjusted P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Our study provides the first evidence that in patients with PD, RLS is associated with significantly larger gray matter volume in the posterior cingulate cortex and lower resting-state functional connectivity within the sensorimotor network. Our results may help clarify the pathophysiology of RLS in PD and identify possible therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Functional connectivity; Parkinson’s disease; Posterior cingulate gyrus; Restless legs syndrome; fMRI.