PET and SPECT studies in Parkinson's disease

Baillieres Clin Neurol. 1997 Apr;6(1):69-87.


Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission tomography (SPECT) provide sensitive means for quantifying the loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic fibres in Parkinson's disease and for detecting the presence of dopaminergic dysfunction in asymptomatic at-risk relatives and patients with isolated tremor. Functional imaging can also be used to follow the rate of disease progression objectively, determine the efficacy of putative neuroprotective agents, and monitor the viability of transplants of fetal tissue. Additionally, in vivo pharmacological changes associated with development of treatment complications (fluctuations, dyskinesias) can be studied. Loss of dopaminergic projections produces profound changes in resting and activated brain metabolism. PET and SPECT activation studies have suggested that the akinesia of Parkinson's disease is associated with failure to activate the supplementary motor and dorsal pre-frontal areas. Activation of these cortical areas is restored towards normal by the use of dopaminergic medication, striatal transplantation with fetal mesencephalic tissue, and pallidotomy. The aim of this chapter is to review the insight which functional imaging has given us into the pathophysiology of parkinsonism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cell Death
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Fetal Tissue Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism
  • Substantia Nigra / physiopathology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Dopamine