Cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular reactivity correlate with severity of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease

Laura Pelizzari, Maria Marcella Laganà, Federica Rossetto, Niels Bergsland, Mirco Galli, Giuseppe Baselli, Mario Clerici, Raffaello Nemni, Francesca Baglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is mainly characterized by movement dysfunction. Neurovascular unit (NVU) disruption has been proposed to be involved in the disease, but its role in PD neurodegenerative mechanisms is still unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebrovascular reactivity (CVR) within the regions belonging to the motor network, in patients with mild to moderate stages of PD. Methods: Twenty-eight PD patients (66.6 ± 8.6 years, 22 males, median [interquartile range, IQR] Hoehn & Yahr = 1.5 [1–1.9]) and 32 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HCs) were scanned with arterial spin labeling (ASL) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for CBF assessment. ASL MRI was also acquired in hypercapnic conditions to induce vasodilation and subsequently allow for CVR measurement in a subgroup of 13 PD patients and 13 HCs. Median CBF and CVR were extracted from cortical and subcortical regions belonging to the motor network and compared between PD patients and HCs. In addition, the correlation between these parameters and the severity of PD motor symptoms [quantified with Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale part III (UPDRS III)] was assessed. The false discovery rate (FDR) method was used to correct for multiple comparisons. Results: No significant differences in terms of CBF and CVR were found between PD patients and HCs. Positive significant correlations were observed between CBF and UPDRS III within the precentral gyrus, postcentral gyrus, supplementary motor area, striatum, pallidum, thalamus, red nucleus, and substantia nigra (pFDR < 0.05). Conversely, significant negative correlation between CVR and UPDRS III was found in the corpus striatum (pFDR < 0.05). Conclusion: CBF and CVR assessment provides information about NVU integrity in an indirect and noninvasive way. Our findings support the hypothesis of NVU involvement at the mild to moderate stages of PD, suggesting that CBF and CVR within the motor network might be used as either diagnostic or prognostic markers for PD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


  • arterial spin labeling
  • cerebral blood flow
  • cerebrovascular reactivity
  • Parkinson’s disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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