MRI evaluation of brain iron in earlier- and later-onset Parkinson's disease and normal subjects

George Bartzokis, Jeffrey L. Cummings, Charles H. Markham, Panos Z. Marmarelis, Leo J. Treciokas, Todd A. Tishler, Stephen R. Marder, Jim Mintz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Tissue iron levels in the extrapyramidal system of earlier- and later- onset Parkinson's disease (PD) subjects were evaluated in vivo using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method. The method involves scanning subjects in both high- and low-field MRI instruments, measuring tissue relaxation rate (R2), and calculating the field-dependent R2 increase (FDRI) which is the difference between the R2 measured with the two MRI instruments. In tissue, only ferritin iron is known to increase R2 in a field-dependent manner and the FDRI measure is a specific measure of this tissue iron pool. Two groups of male subjects with PD and two age-matched groups of normal control males were studied. The two groups of six subjects with PD consisted of subjects with earlier- or later-onset (before or after age 60) PD. FDRI was measured in five subcortical structures: the substantia nigra reticulata (SNR), substantia nigra compacta (SNC), globus pallidus, putamen, and caudate nucleus, and in one comparison region; the frontal white matter. Earlier-onset PD subjects had significant (p < 0.05) increases in FDRI in the SNR, SNC, putamen, and globus pallidus, while later-onset PD subjects had significantly decreased FDRI in the SNR when compared to their respective age-matched controls. Controlling for illness duration or structure size did not meaningfully alter the results. Published post-mortem studies on SN iron levels indicate decreased ferritin levels and increased free iron levels in the SN of older PD subjects, consistent with the decreased FDRI observed in our later-onset PD sample, which was closely matched in age to the post-mortem PD samples. The FDRI results suggest that disregulation of iron metabolism occurs in PD and that this disregulation may differ in earlier- versus later-onset PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Basal ganglia
  • Ferritin
  • Field-dependent
  • Iron
  • Onset
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Substantia nigra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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