Parkinson's disease and brain mitochondrial dysfunction: A functional phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Mario Rango, Cristiana Bonifati, Nereo Bresolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In spite of several evidences for a mitochondrial impairment in Parkinson's disease (PD), so far it has not been possible to show in vivo mitochondrial dysfunction in the human brain of PD patients. The authors used the high temporal and spatial resolution 31 phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P MRS) technique, which they have previously developed in normal subjects and in patients with mitochondrial diseases to study mitochondrial function by observing high-energy phosphates (HEPs) and intracellular pH (pH) in the visual cortex of 20 patients with PD and 20 normal subjects at rest, during, and after visual activation. In normal subjects, HEPs remained unchanged during activation, but rose significantly (by 16%) during recovery, and pH increased during visual activation with a slow return to rest values. In PD patients, HEPs were within the normal range at rest and did not change during activation, but fell significantly (by 36%) in the recovery period; pH did not reveal a homogeneous pattern with a wide spread of values. Energy unbalance under increased oxidative metabolism requirements, that is, the postactivation phase, discloses a mitochondrial dysfunction that is present in the brain of patients with PD even in the absence of overt clinical manifestations, as in the visual cortex. This is in agreement with our previous findings in patients with mitochondrial disease without clinical central nervous system (CNS) involvement. The heterogeneity of the physicochemical environment (i.e., pH) suggests various degrees of subclinical brain involvement in PD. The combined use of MRS and brain activation is fundamental for the study of brain energetics in patients with PD and may prove an important tool for diagnostic purposes and, possibly, to monitor therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-290
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


  • Brain activation
  • Brain energetics
  • Mitochondria
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Neuroscience(all)


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