Low brain iron content in idiopathic restless legs syndrome patients detected by phase imaging

Giovanni Rizzo, David Manners, Claudia Testa, Caterina Tonon, Roberto Vetrugno, Sara Marconi, Giuseppe Plazzi, Fabio Pizza, Federica Provini, Emil Malucelli, Laura Ludovica Gramegna, Raffaele Lodi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The objective of this study was to use phase imaging to evaluate brain iron content in patients with idiopathic restless legs syndrome (RLS). Methods: Fifteen RLS patients and 15 healthy controls were studied using gradient-echo imaging. Phase analysis was performed on localized brain regions of interest selected on phase maps, sensitive to paramagnetic tissue. Differences between the 2 subject groups were evaluated using ANCOVA including age as a covariate. Results: Significantly higher phase values were present in the RLS patients compared with healthy controls at the level of the substantia nigra, thalamus, putamen, and pallidum, indicating reduced iron content in several regions of the brain of the patients. Conclusions: We have used MRI phase analysis to study brain iron content in idiopathic RLS in vivo for the first time. Our results support the hypothesis of reduced brain iron content in RLS patients, which may have an important role in the pathophysiology of the disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1886-1890
Number of pages5
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Iron
  • MRI
  • Phase imaging
  • RLS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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