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Methods: FA values were compared in the extrapyramidal system of 12 patients with Parkinson's disease and eight age matched normal controls.
Results: Patients with Parkinson's disease had significantly decreased FA in the region of interest along a line between the substantia nigra and the lower part of the putamen/caudate complex, in which most of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurones are included. Loss of FA in this region was obvious even during the early clinical stages of Parkinson's disease.
Conclusions: Assuming that the loss of FA parallels the neuronal change in the brain, the results are consistent with the view that more than half the dopaminergic neurones in the nigrostriatal projection are lost before the onset of Parkinson's disease. Close comparison of FA in the basal ganglia may contribute to the early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.