Brain scans detect early signs of Parkinson's

Updated: 2014-06-16 09:30


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British researchers have developed a simple and quick brain-scanning technique that offers promise for early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, providing hope of tackling the disease before it starts to cause symptoms, it was announced Thursday.

The research team demonstrated that their new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach can detect people who have early-stage Parkinson's disease with nearly 90 percent accuracy, according to their paper published in U.S. scientific journal Neurology.

The team compared 19 people with early-stage Parkinson's disease and 19 healthy people, matched for age and gender. They found that Parkinson's patients had much lower connectivity in the basal ganglia.

The researchers were able to define a threshold level of connectivity. Falling below this level was able to predict who had Parkinson's disease with 89.5 percent specificity, meaning only a few healthy people were wrongly diagnosed.

"At the moment we have no way to predict who is at risk of Parkinson's disease in the vast majority of cases," Clare Mackay, one of the joint lead researchers at Oxford University, said.

"We are excited that this MRI technique might prove to be a good marker for the earliest signs of Parkinson's. The results are very promising," she added.

Parkinson's disease is characterised by tremor, slow movement, and stiff and inflexible muscles. It's thought to affect around 1 in 500 people in Britain. There is currently no cure for the disease, although there are treatments that can reduce symptoms and maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.