New brain scan could potentially diagnose Parkinson’s

A type of brain scan could act as a diagnostic tool in Parkinson’s according to a new study carried out by researchers at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust.


Funded by the charity Parkinson’s UK, researchers at NUH used an MRI brain scan to study changes in a pigment in the part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s.

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In 69 participants, they found that a brain scan, which can detect this pigment, allowed them to accurately identify those with mild or moderate Parkinson’s, highlighting the potential of this technique to diagnose and track the condition.

mimagegen-ashxBrain cells affected by Parkinson’s contain a pigment called neuromelanin, which gives the cells a characteristic dark colouring. As those cells are lost in people with Parkinson’s, the pigmentation is reduced. Recent research has suggested MRI brain scans may be sensitive enough to detect this change.

However, there are many different machines and methods for taking MRI brain scans, which could affect how accurate the technique is at detecting Parkinson’s.

The NUH research team developed ways to standardise results from different types of machines to increase the accuracy of the technique. They also discovered that the technique may be sensitive enough to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s.

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Dr Stephen Ryder, Director of Research and Innovation at NUH said: “We are delighted with the results of this study, and the promise of a non invasive diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease. Nottingham is an international centre of excellence for MR and this study adds to a strong portfolio of MR research which is at the heart of our £23.6M Biomedical Research Centre.”