New research 'one step closer' to diagnosing early Parkinson's

Research funded by Parkinson's UK has brought us one step closer to diagnosing early stage Parkinson's – thanks to a new and simple MRI scanning technique.

The research team, who are part of our groundbreaking Monument Discovery Project at University of Oxford, used the new technique to diagnose early stage Parkinson's with an accuracy of 85%.

The findings are published today in the medical journal Neurology.

What the team did

Diagnosing Parkinson's is notoriously difficult and it can take a long time, which can be distressing for those with possible symptoms

The Oxford research team used a technique called resting state fMRI – where people are required simply to stay still in an MRI scanner for a longer period of time – to compare levels of 'connectivity', or strength of brain networks in the basal ganglia – part of the brain known to be involved in Parkinson's.

When this new data was compared to those without Parkinson's the researchers were able to set a standard for level of connectivity to diagnose early stage Parkinson's with an accuracy of 85%.

The Oxford University researchers are now carrying out further studies of their MRI technique with people who are at increased risk of Parkinson's.

Towards better and earlier diagnosis

Claire Bale, Research Communications Manager at Parkinson's UK, explains:

"This new research takes us one step closer to diagnosing Parkinson's at a much earlier stage – one of the biggest challenges facing research into the condition.

"By using a new, simple scanning technique the team at Oxford have been able to study levels of activity in the brain which may suggest that Parkinson's is present.

"One person every hour is diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK.*

"We hope that the researchers are able to continue to refine their test so that it can one day be part of clinical practice."

*This article mentions statistics which have since been updated. 2018 data shows that 2 people every hour are diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK.