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Correlation between neuromelanin-sensitive MR imaging and 123I-FP-CIT SPECT in patients with parkinsonism



Neuromelanin-sensitive MR imaging (MRI) can visualize neuromelanin-containing neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), and its utility has been reported in the evaluation of parkinsonism. Conversely, dopamine transporter imaging by 123I-N-v-fluoropropyl-2b-carbomethoxy-3b-(4-iodophenyl)nortropane (FP-CIT) SPECT (DaTSCAN) is now an established method for evaluating parkinsonism, detecting presynaptic dopamine neuronal dysfunction. Both methods can assist differentiating neurodegenerative and other forms of parkinsonism. However, to our knowledge, there have been no studies concerning a correlation between the two methods. The aim of this study was to assess the utility of neuromelanin-sensitive MRI for diagnosing parkinsonism by examining a correlation with DaTSCAN.


Twenty-three patients with parkinsonism who underwent both neuromelanin-sensitive MRI and DaTSCAN were included. We measured the neuromelanin-positive SNc region volume by manually contouring the high signal intensity region of the SNc on neuromelanin-sensitive MRI and measured the specific binding ratio (SBR) on DaTSCAN. The asymmetry index of neuromelanin-positive SNc volume and the asymmetry index of SBR were also calculated.


The volume of the neuromelanin-positive SNc region showed significant correlation with specific binding ratio (SBR) (right P < .001, ρ = 0.78, left P < .001, ρ = 0.86). The asymmetry index of neuromelanin-positive SNc volume also showed significant correlations with the asymmetry index of SBR (P < .001, ρ = 0.73).


Decrease of the high signal intensity region of the SNc on neuromelanin-sensitive MRI would indicate damage to the nigrostriatal dopaminergic function as well as loss of dopaminergic neurons. We conclude that neuromelanin-sensitive MRI is a useful diagnostic biomarker for parkinsonism.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Keita Kuya.

Ethics declarations

This research project was approved by the appropriate Ethics Committee and has therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. Although patient consent was waived for this retrospective study, MRI and 123I-FP-CIT SPECT studies were performed with informed consent of the patient or the patient’s relatives.

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

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Kuya, K., Shinohara, Y., Miyoshi, F. et al. Correlation between neuromelanin-sensitive MR imaging and 123I-FP-CIT SPECT in patients with parkinsonism. Neuroradiology 58, 351–356 (2016).

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  • Neuromelanin-sensitive MRI
  • Parkinsonism
  • Specific binding ratio