Arterial spin labeling reveals relationships between resting cerebral perfusion and motor learning in Parkinson's disease

Barzgari A, Sojkova J, Maritza Dowling N, Pozorski V, Okonkwo OC, Starks EJ, Oh J, Thiesen F, Wey A, Nicholas CR, Johnson S, Gallagher CL.

Brain Imaging Behav. 2019 Jun;13(3):577-587. doi: 10.1007/s11682-018-9877-1.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disease that produces changes in movement, cognition, sleep, and autonomic function. Motor learning involves acquisition of new motor skills through practice, and is affected by PD. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate regional differences in resting cerebral blood flow (rCBF), measured using arterial spin labeling (ASL) MRI, during a finger-typing task of motor skill acquisition in PD patients compared to age- and gender-matched controls. Voxel-wise multiple linear regression models were used to examine the relationship between rCBF and several task variables, including initial speed, proficiency gain, and accuracy. In these models, a task-by-disease group interaction term was included to investigate where the relationship between rCBF and task performance was influenced by PD. At baseline, perfusion was lower in PD subjects than controls in the right occipital cortex. The task-by-disease group interaction for initial speed was significantly related to rCBF (p < 0.05, corrected) in several brain regions involved in motor learning, including the occipital, parietal, and temporal cortices, cerebellum, anterior cingulate, and the superior and middle frontal gyri. In these regions, PD patients showed higher rCBF, and controls lower rCBF, with improved performance. Within the control group, proficiency gain over 12 typing trials was related to greater rCBF in cerebellar, occipital, and temporal cortices. These results suggest that higher rCBF within networks involved in motor learning enable PD patients to compensate for disease-related deficits.


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