Assessing White Matter Pathology in Early-Stage Parkinson Disease Using Diffusion MRI: A Systematic Review
Frontiers in Neurology
Structural brain white matter (WM) changes such as axonal caliber, density, myelination, and orientation, along with WM-dependent structural connectivity, may be impacted early in Parkinson disease (PD). Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) has been used extensively to understand such pathological WM changes, and the focus of this systematic review is to understand both the methods utilized and their corresponding results in the context of early-stage PD. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI)
... the most commonly utilized method to probe WM pathological changes. Previous studies have suggested that DTI metrics are sensitive in capturing early disease-associated WM changes in preclinical symptomatic regions such as olfactory regions and the substantia nigra, which is considered to be a hallmark of PD pathology and progression. Postprocessing analytic approaches include region of interest-based analysis, voxel-based analysis, skeletonized approaches, and connectome analysis, each with unique advantages and challenges. While DTI has been used extensively to study WM disorganization in early-stage PD, it has several limitations, including an inability to resolve multiple fiber orientations within each voxel and sensitivity to partial volume effects. Given the subtle changes associated with early-stage PD, these limitations result in inaccuracies that severely impact the reliability of DTI-based metrics as potential biomarkers. To overcome these limitations, advanced dMRI acquisition and analysis methods have been employed, including diffusion kurtosis imaging and q-space diffeomorphic reconstruction. The combination of improved acquisition and analysis in DTI may yield novel and accurate information related to WM-associated changes in early-stage PD. In the current article, we present a systematic and critical review of dMRI studies in early-stage PD, with a focus on recent advances in DTI methodology. Yielding novel metrics, these advanced methods have been shown to detect diffuse WM changes in early-stage PD. These findings support the notion of early axonal damage in PD and suggest that WM pathology may go unrecognized until symptoms appear. Finally, the advantages and disadvantages of different dMRI techniques, analysis methods, and software employed are discussed in the context of PD-related pathology.