White matter microstructural integrity and executive function in Parkinson’s disease

Gallagher C, Bell B, Bendlin B, Palotti M, Okonkwo O, Sodhi A, Wong R, Buyan-Dent L, Johnson S, Willette A, Harding S, Ninman N, Kastman E, Alexander A

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013 Mar;19(3):349-54.


Recent studies suggest that white matter abnormalities contribute to both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The present study was designed to investigate the degree to which diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) indices are related to executive function in Parkinson’s patients. We used tract-based spatial statistics to compare DTI data from 15 patients to 15 healthy, age- and education-matched controls. We then extracted mean values of fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) within an a priori frontal mask. Executive function composite Z scores were regressed against these DTI indices, age, and total intracranial volume. In Parkinson’s patients, FA was related to executive composite scores, and both indices were related to Stroop interference scores. We conclude that white matter microstructural abnormalities contribute to cognitive deficits in Parkinson’s disease. Further work is needed to determine whether these white matter changes reflect the pathological process or a clinically important comorbidity.

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