Cardiac sympathetic denervation predicts PD in at-risk individuals

David S. Goldstein*, Courtney Holmes, Grisel J. Lopez, Tianxia Wu, Yehonatan Sharabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: By the time a person develops the motor manifestations of Parkinson's disease (PD), substantial loss of nigrostriatal dopamine neurons has already occurred. There is great interest in identifying biomarkers that can detect pre-clinical PD. Braak's neuropathological staging concept imputes early autonomic involvement. Here we report results from a small prospective cohort study about the utility of neuroimaging evidence of cardiac sympathetic denervation in predicting PD among individuals with multiple PD risk factors. Methods: Subjects provided information about family history of PD, olfactory dysfunction, dream enactment behavior, and orthostatic hypotension at a protocol-specific website. From this pool, 27 people with at least 3 risk factors confirmed underwent cardiac 18F-dopamine positron emission tomographic scanning and were followed for at least 3 years. Interventricular septal and left ventricular free wall concentrations of 18F-dopamine-derived radioactivity were measured. Results: Of the 27 subjects, 4 were diagnosed with PD within the 3-year follow-up period (Pre-Clinical PD group); 23 risk-matched (mean 3.2 risk factors) subjects remained disease-free (No-PD group). Compared to the No-PD group, the Pre-Clinical PD group had lower initial values for septal and free wall concentrations of 18F-dopamine-derived radioactivity (p = 0.0248, 0.0129). All 4 Pre-Clinical PD subjects had evidence of decreased cardiac sympathetic innervation in the interventricular septum or left ventricular free wall, in contrast with 3 of 23 (13%) No-PD subjects (p = 0.0020 by Fisher's exact test). Conclusion: People with multiple PD risk factors and diagnosed with PD within 3 years have evidence of antecedent cardiac sympathetic denervation. The findings fit with Braak's staging concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-93
Number of pages4
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Division of Intramural Research
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeZIANS003034


    • Biomarkers
    • Fluorodopamine
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Sympathetic nervous system


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