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Relation of cerebral small-vessel disease and brain atrophy to mild parkinsonism in the elderly



The association between cerebral small-vessel disease, brain atrophy, and the risk and severity of mild parkinsonian signs (MPS) remains unclear. The objective of this study is to examine the effect of lacunar brain infarcts, cerebral white matter lesions (WMLs), and cortical atrophy on the risk and severity of MPS. This study is a cross-sectional community-based cohort study comprising 268 subjects, 65 to 83 years of age, residing in the Augsburg region of southern Germany, and without contraindications for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Main outcome measures. Subcortical and periventricular WMLs, lacunar brain infarcts, and cortical atrophy determined using a standardized MRI protocol developed for the Rotterdam Scan Study and an established rating scale. MPS, assessed in a standardized neurological examination and based on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor scale. Lacunar brain infarcts and large subcortical white matter lesions were associated with an elevated risk of resting tremor. More severe cortical atrophy was related to an increased risk of rigidity and bradykinesia. In a linear regression analysis relating each individual MRI measurement with the severity of MPS, the number of lacunar brain infarcts and the degree of brain atrophy were correlated with the severity of resting tremor, whereas the size of subcortical and periventricular WMLs was correlated with the severity of rigidity. A higher degree of brain atrophy was associated with increased severity of either cardinal sign. In our study, presence and volume of lacunar brain infarcts, cerebral WMLs, and cortical atrophy were associated with the risk as well as severity of MPS. Determining the presence of these brain changes using brain imaging might contribute to identify persons at risk for MPS. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society