Through the years, Parkinson’s disease remains as one of the most debilitating neurodegenerative disease. This disorder is caused by the diminished amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. This in turn is due to the loss of the dopamine producing cells located in the substantia nigra, a crescent shaped mass in the midbrain. Dopamine is essential in several functions of the brain including motor and behavioral processes. Parkinson’s disease symptoms include resting tremor, bradykinesia, postural instability and rigidity.
The disease’s failure to be identified earlier before the disease progresses adds to the difficulty of its management. The signs of Parkinson’s disease are also similar with other neurological disorders. This makes definitive diagnosis more difficult to establish. Without radiological imaging techniques, physicians need to solely rely on history and physical examination to be able to diagnose this disorder.
A research published in the journal Radiology showed that the use of ultra-high-field magnetic resonance imaging can effectively provide detailed views of the areas of the brain which are affected in Parkinson’s disease.
The team, lead by Dr. Mirco Cosottini from the University of Pisa in Italy, studied 38 individuals, 17 of which show symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Brain specimen from a deceased was also used in the study to effectively measure the accuracy of the 7-T MRI (ultra-high-field 7-tesla) in the identification of Parkinson’s disease.
With the use of the 7-T MRI, the health informatics researchers are able to identify the substantia nigra and its three-layered organization. The abnormalities were distinguished from the normal tissue based on images by the 7-T MRI, thus aiding in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. The test was said to have a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 96.2%.
The research team is currently exploring the potential of using the 7-T MRI in the detection of other neurodegenerative diseases such as mild cognitive impairment, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Cossotini explains that the availability of a diagnostic modality like the 7-T MRI can speed the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease thereby enabling clinicians to initiate treatment in the earliest time possible.