Open Access Research

Reduced striatal volumes in Parkinson’s disease: a magnetic resonance imaging study

Toni L Pitcher12*, Tracy R Melzer12, Michael R MacAskill12, Charlotte F Graham12, Leslie Livingston12, Ross J Keenan5, Richard Watts24, John C Dalrymple-Alford123 and Tim J Anderson126

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand

2 New Zealand Brain Research Institute, 66 Stewart St, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

3 Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

4 College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA

5 Christchurch Radiology Group, Christchurch, New Zealand

6 Department of Neurology, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Translational Neurodegeneration 2012, 1:17  doi:10.1186/2047-9158-1-17

Published: 21 August 2012



The presence and extent of structural changes in the brain as a consequence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is still poorly understood.


High-resolution 3-tesla T1-weighted structural magnetic resonance images in sixty-five PD and 27 age-matched healthy control participants were examined. Putamen, caudate, and intracranial volumes were manually traced in the axial plane of 3D reconstructed images. Striatal nuclei volumes were normalized to intracranial volume for statistical comparison. Disease status was assessed using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale and Hoehn and Yahr scale. Cognitive status was assessed using global status tests and detailed neuropsychological testing.


Both caudate and putamen volumes were smaller in PD brains compared to controls after adjusting for age and gender. Caudate volumes were reduced by 11% (p = 0.001) and putamen volumes by 8.1% (p = 0.025). PD striatal volumes were not found to be significantly correlated with cognitive or motor decline.


Small, but significant reductions in the volume of both the caudate and putamen occur in PD brains. These reductions are independent of the effects of age and gender, however the relation of these reductions to the functional loss of dopamine, which is characteristic of PD, remains unclear.

Magnetic resonance imaging; Volumetry; Caudate; Putamen; Parkinson’s disease