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1.  Thalamic cholinergic innervation and postural sensory integration function in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(11):3282-3289.
The pathophysiology of postural instability in Parkinson’s disease remains poorly understood. Normal postural function depends in part on the ability of the postural control system to integrate visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular sensory information. Degeneration of cholinergic neurons in the brainstem pedunculopontine nucleus complex and their thalamic efferent terminals has been implicated in postural control deficits in Parkinson’s disease. Our aim was to investigate the relationship of cholinergic terminal loss in thalamus and cortex, and nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation, on postural sensory integration function in Parkinson’s disease. We studied 124 subjects with Parkinson’s disease (32 female/92 male; 65.5 ± 7.4 years old; 6.0 ± 4.2 years motor disease duration; modified Hoehn and Yahr mean stage 2.4 ± 0.5) and 25 control subjects (10 female/15 male, 66.8 ± 10.1 years old). All subjects underwent 11C-dihydrotetrabenazine vesicular monoaminergic transporter type 2 and 11C-methylpiperidin-4-yl propionate acetylcholinesterase positron emission tomography and the sensory organization test balance platform protocol. Measures of dopaminergic and cholinergic terminal integrity were obtained, i.e. striatal vesicular monoaminergic transporter type 2 binding (distribution volume ratio) and thalamic and cortical acetylcholinesterase hydrolysis rate per minute (k3), respectively. Total centre of pressure excursion (speed), a measure of total sway, and sway variability were determined for individual sensory organization test conditions. Based on normative data, principal component analysis was performed to reduce postural sensory organization functions to robust factors for regression analysis with the dopaminergic and cholinergic terminal data. Factor analysis demonstrated two factors with eigenvalues >2 that explained 52.2% of the variance, mainly reflecting postural sway during sensory organization test Conditions 1–3 and 5, respectively. Regression analysis of the Conditions 1–3 postural sway-related factor [R2adj = 0.123, F(5,109) = 4.2, P = 0.002] showed that decreased thalamic cholinergic innervation was associated with increased centre of pressure sway speed (β = −0.389, t = −3.4, P = 0.001) while controlling for covariate effects of cognitive capacity and parkinsonian motor impairments. There was no significant effect of cortical cholinergic terminal deficits or striatal dopaminergic terminal deficits. This effect could only be found for the subjects with Parkinson’s disease. We conclude that postural sensory integration function of subjects with Parkinson’s disease is modulated by pedunculopontine nucleus-thalamic but not cortical cholinergic innervation. Impaired integrity of pedunculopontine nucleus cholinergic neurons and their thalamic efferents play a role in postural control in patients with Parkinson’s disease, possibly by participating in integration of multimodal sensory input information.
PMCID: PMC3900870  PMID: 24056537
Parkinson’s disease; pedunculopontine nucleus; postural sensory organization; positron emission tomography; acetylcholine
2.  Leucoaraiosis, nigrostriatal denervation and motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2011;134(8):2358-2365.
Leucoaraiosis is associated with motor symptoms in otherwise normal older adults. Comorbid leucoaraiosis is predicted to contribute also to motor features in Parkinson’s disease but previous studies of white matter changes in Parkinson’s disease show variable results. No prior studies have compared directly the effects of both leucoaraiosis and the degree of nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation on motor features. We investigated the effect of leucoaraiosis severity on motor impairment independent of the degree of nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation in Parkinson’s disease. Seventy-three subjects with Parkinson’s disease (Hoehn and Yahr stages 1–3) underwent brain magnetic resonance and [11C]dihydrotetrabenazine vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 positron emission tomography imaging. Automated assessment of supratentorial fluid-attenuated inversion recovery magnetic resonance hyperintense white matter voxels was performed using cerebellar white matter as the intensity reference. White matter signal hyperintensity burden was log-transformed and normalized for brain volume. Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale total and subscore ratings were assessed to determine motor impairment. Subjects receiving dopaminergic medications were examined in the clinically defined ‘OFF’ state. Multivariate regression analysis with measures of white matter signal hyperintensity burden and nigrostriatal denervation as independent variables demonstrated a significant overall model for total motor Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale scores (F = 11.4, P < 0.0001) with significant regression effects for both white matter signal hyperintensity burden (t = 2.0, β = 0.22, P = 0.045) and striatal monoaminergic binding (t = −3.5, β = −0.38, P = 0.0008). Axial motor impairment demonstrated a robust association with white matter signal hyperintensity burden (t = 4.0, β = 0.43, P = 0.0001) compared with striatal monoaminergic binding (t = −2.1, β = 0.22, P = 0.043). White matter signal hyperintensity burden regression effects for bradykinesia had borderline significance. No significant white matter signal hyperintensity burden effects were found for rigidity or tremor subscores. White matter signal hyperintensity burden was significantly higher in the subgroup with postural instability and gait difficulties compared with the tremor-predominant subgroup despite no significant differences in age or duration of disease. These findings indicate that increased white matter signal hyperintensity burden is associated with worse motor performance independent of the degree of nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation in Parkinson’s disease. Comorbid white matter disease is a greater determinant of axial motor impairment than nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation.
PMCID: PMC3155702  PMID: 21653540
dopamine; motor; Parkinson’s disease; leucoaraiosis; magnetic resonance imaging; white matter hyperintensities
3.  Assessment of mild dementia with amyloid and dopamine terminal positron emission tomography 
Brain  2011;134(6):1647-1657.
We assessed the relationship between consensus clinical diagnostic classification and neurochemical positron emission tomography imaging of striatal vesicular monoamine transporters and cerebrocortical deposition of aβ-amyloid in mild dementia. Seventy-five subjects with mild dementia (Mini-Mental State Examination score ≥ 18) underwent a conventional clinical evaluation followed by 11C-dihydrotetrabenazine positron emission tomography imaging of striatal vesicular monoamine transporters and 11C-Pittsburgh compound-B positron emission tomography imaging of cerebrocortical aβ-amyloid deposition. Clinical classifications were assigned by consensus of an experienced clinician panel. Neuroimaging classifications were assigned as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies on the basis of the combined 11C-dihydrotetrabenazine and 11C-Pittsburgh compound-B results. Thirty-six subjects were classified clinically as having Alzheimer’s disease, 25 as having frontotemporal dementia and 14 as having dementia with Lewy bodies. Forty-seven subjects were classified by positron emission tomography neuroimaging as having Alzheimer’s disease, 15 as having dementia with Lewy bodies and 13 as having frontotemporal dementia. There was only moderate agreement between clinical consensus and neuroimaging classifications across all dementia subtypes, with discordant classifications in ∼35% of subjects (Cohen’s κ = 0.39). Discordant classifications were least frequent in clinical consensus Alzheimer’s disease (17%), followed by dementia with Lewy bodies (29%) and were most common in frontotemporal dementia (64%). Accurate clinical classification of mild neurodegenerative dementia is challenging. Though additional post-mortem correlations are required, positron emission tomography imaging likely distinguishes subgroups corresponding to neurochemically defined pathologies. Use of these positron emission tomography imaging methods may augment clinical classifications and allow selection of more uniform subject groups in disease-modifying therapeutic trials and other prospective research involving subjects in the early stages of dementia.
PMCID: PMC3102241  PMID: 21555336
Alzheimer’s disease; Lewy body dementia; frontotemporal dementia; amyloid; dopamine; diagnosis
5.  Olfactory dysfunction, central cholinergic integrity and cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2010;133(6):1747-1754.
Olfactory dysfunction is common in subjects with Parkinson’s disease. The pathophysiology of such dysfunction, however, remains poorly understood. Neurodegeneration within central regions involved in odour perception may contribute to olfactory dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. Central cholinergic deficits occur in Parkinson’s disease and cholinergic neurons innervate regions, such as the limbic archicortex, involved in odour perception. We investigated the relationship between performance on an odour identification task and forebrain cholinergic denervation in Parkinson’s disease subjects without dementia. Fifty-eight patients with Parkinson’s disease (mean Hoehn and Yahr stage 2.5 ± 0.5) without dementia (mean Mini-Mental State Examination, 29.0 ± 1.4) underwent a clinical assessment, [11C]methyl-4-piperidinyl propionate acetylcholinesterase brain positron emission tomography and olfactory testing with the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test. The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was confirmed by [11C]dihydrotetrabenazine vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 positron emission tomography. We found that odour identification test scores correlated positively with acetylcholinesterase activity in the hippocampal formation (r = 0.56, P < 0.0001), amygdala (r = 0.50, P < 0.0001) and neocortex (r = 0.46, P = 0.0003). Striatal monoaminergic activity correlated positively with odour identification scores (r = 0.30, P < 0.05). Multiple regression analysis including limbic (hippocampal and amygdala) and neocortical acetylcholinesterase activity as well as striatal monoaminergic activity, using odour identification scores as the dependent variable, demonstrated a significant regressor effect for limbic acetylcholinesterase activity (F = 10.1, P < 0.0001), borderline for striatal monoaminergic activity (F = 1.6, P = 0.13), but not significant for cortical acetylcholinesterase activity (F = 0.3, P = 0.75). Odour identification scores correlated positively with scores on cognitive measures of episodic verbal learning (r = 0.30, P < 0.05). These findings indicate that cholinergic denervation of the limbic archicortex is a more robust determinant of hyposmia than nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation in subjects with moderately severe Parkinson's disease. Greater deficits in odour identification may identify patients with Parkinson's disease at risk for clinically significant cognitive impairment.
PMCID: PMC2877903  PMID: 20413575
acetylcholinesterase; cognitive impairment; Parkinson’s disease; positron emission tomography; smell

Results 1-5 (5)