Damaged fiber tracts of the nucleus basalis of Meynert in Parkinson's disease patients with visual hallucinations.
Hepp DH., Foncke EMJ., Berendse HW., Wassenaar TM., Olde Dubbelink KTE., Groenewegen HJ., D J van de Berg W., Schoonheim MM.
Damage to fiber tracts connecting the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) to the cerebral cortex may underlie the development of visual hallucinations (VH) in Parkinson's disease (PD), possibly due to a loss of cholinergic innervation. This was investigated by comparing structural connectivity of the NBM using diffusion tensor imaging in 15 PD patients with VH (PD + VH), 40 PD patients without VH (PD - VH), and 15 age- and gender-matched controls. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) of pathways connecting the NBM to the whole cerebral cortex and of regional NBM fiber tracts were compared between groups. In PD + VH patients, compared to controls, higher MD values were observed in the pathways connecting the NBM to the cerebral cortex, while FA values were normal. Regional analysis demonstrated a higher MD of parietal (p = 0.011) and occipital tracts (p = 0.027) in PD + VH, compared to PD - VH patients. We suggest that loss of structural connectivity between the NBM and posterior brain regions may contribute to the etiology of VH in PD. Future studies are needed to determine whether these findings could represent a sensitive marker for the hypothesized cholinergic deficit in PD + VH patients.