Brain structural and functional connectivity in Parkinson's disease with freezing of gait

Elisa Canu, Federica Agosta, Elisabetta Sarasso, Maria Antonietta Volontè, Silvia Basaia, Tanja Stojkovic, Elka Stefanova, Giancarlo Comi, Andrea Falini, Vladimir S. Kostic, Roberto Gatti, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To use a multimodal approach to assess brain structural pathways and resting state (RS) functional connectivity abnormalities in patients with Parkinson's disease and freezing of gait (PD-FoG). Methods: T1-weighted, diffusion tensor (DT) MRI and RS functional MRI (fMRI) were obtained from 22 PD-FoG patients and 35 controls on a 3.0 T MR scanner. Patients underwent clinical, motor, and neuropsychological evaluations. Gray matter (GM) volumes and white matter (WM) damage were assessed using voxel based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics, respectively. The pedunculopontine tract (PPT) was studied using tractography. RS fMRI data were analyzed using a model free approach investigating the main sensorimotor and cognitive brain networks. Multiple regression models were performed to assess the relationships between structural, functional, and clinical/cognitive variables. Analysis of GM and WM structural abnormalities was replicated in an independent sample including 28 PD-FoG patients, 25 PD patients without FoG, and 30 healthy controls who performed MRI scans on a 1.5 T scanner. Results: Compared with controls, no GM atrophy was found in PD-FoG cases. PD-FoG patients showed WM damage of the PPT, corpus callosum, corticospinal tract, cingulum, superior longitudinal fasciculus, and WM underneath the primary motor, premotor, prefrontal, orbitofrontal, and inferior parietal cortices, bilaterally. In PD-FoG, right PTT damage was associated with a greater disease severity. Analysis on the independent PD sample showed similar findings in PD-FoG patients relative to controls as well as WM damage of the genu and body of the corpus callosum and right parietal WM in PD-FoG relative to PD no-FoG patients. RS fMRI analysis showed that PD-FoG is associated with a decreased functional connectivity of the primary motor cortex and supplementary motor area bilaterally in the sensorimotor network, frontoparietal regions in the default mode network, and occipital cortex in the visual associative network. Conclusions: This study suggests that FoG in PD can be the result of a poor structural and functional integration between motor and extramotor (cognitive) neural systems. Hum Brain Mapp 36:5064-5078, 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5064-5078
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Brain connectivity
  • Diffusion tensor MRI
  • Freezing of gait
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Resting state functional MRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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