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Curr Opin Neurol. 2005 Aug;18(4):370-5.

An update on conventional and advanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative parkinsonism.

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Department of Neurology, Medical University Innsbruck, Austria.



The clinical differentiation between Parkinson's disease and atypical parkinsonian disorders (APD) remains a challenge for every neurologist. Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and different advanced MRI techniques offer the potential for objective criteria in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative parkinsonism. The aim of this article is to review the recent literature on the role of conventional and advanced MRI techniques in the differential diagnosis of neurodegenerative parkinsonian disorders.


An important role of MRI is the exclusion of symptomatic parkinsonism due to other pathologies. Over the past two decades, conventional MRI and different advanced MRI techniques, including proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), magnetization transfer imaging (MTI) and magnetic resonance volumetry (MRV) have been found to show abnormalities in the substantia nigra and basal ganglia, especially in APD. Recent studies using MRV, MTI, DWI and 1H-MRS to discriminate Parkinson's disease from APD are discussed extensively.


Research findings suggest that novel MRI techniques such as MTI, DWI and MRV have superior sensitivity compared to conventional MRI in detecting abnormal features in neurodegenerative parkinsonian disorders. Whether these techniques will emerge as standard investigations in the work-up of patients presenting with parkinsonism requires further prospective magnetic resonance studies during early disease stages.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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