Cardiac sympathetic degeneration correlates with olfactory function in Parkinson's disease


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Autonomic and olfactory dysfunctions are considered markers for preclinical diagnosis in Parkinson's disease (PD), because pathological changes in these systems can start before motor symptoms develop. We investigated whether cardiac sympathetic function and olfactory function are associated in PD. Participants comprised 40 nondemented patients with idiopathic PD, and age-matched controls. Cardiac sympathetic function was evaluated by 123 I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) uptake, in terms of the heart to mediastinum (H/M) ratio in both early and delayed images, and the washout rate (WR). Olfactory function was evaluated using the Odor Stick Identification Test for Japanese, which evaluates the detection of 12 odorants familiar to Japanese participants. Smell identification scores were significantly lower (P < 0.001) in patients with PD than in controls. Smell identification scores correlated positively with early (P < 0.05) and delayed H/M ratios (P < 0.01), and inversely with the WR (P < 0.005) especially in patients with early PD (below 5 years of the start of motor symptoms), whereas smell identification scores did not correlate with any parameters of MIBG in the advanced PD (above 5 years of the start of motor symptoms). There was no correlation between motor symptom scores and smell identification scores, H/M ratios, or WR. The results suggest that the cardiac sympathetic nervous system might degenerate in parallel with the olfactory system in patients with early PD, and that these two systems might degenerate at a different rate of speed in advanced PD. © 2010 Movement Disorder Society