(HealthDay News) — Resting-state assessment of the connectivity of the basal ganglia network (BGN) may be a useful biomarker for early Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a study published online June 11 in Neurology.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Konrad Szewczyk-Krolikowski, MD, from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues examined functional connectivity within the resting-state BGN in a group of cognitively normal patients with early PD on and off medication. BGN map comparisons were made between the PD discovery group and 19 age- and sex-matched controls to identify a threshold for optimal group separation. This threshold was validated in 13 patients with PD (including five drug-naive).

The researchers found that participants with PD showed reduced functional connectivity with the BGN in a wide range of areas. Network connectivity was improved significantly with administration of medication. Participants with PD were differentiated from controls by average BGN connectivity with 100% sensitivity and 89.5% specificity. The validation cohort demonstrated the connectivity threshold with 85% accuracy.

“We demonstrate that resting functional connectivity, measured with MRI using an observer-independent method, is reproducibly reduced in the BGN in cognitively intact patients with PD, and increases upon administration of dopaminergic medication,” the authors write.

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