We carried out an investigation to identify neuromelanin-containing noradrenergic and dopaminergic neurons in the locus ceruleus and substantia nigra pars compacta of healthy volunteers and patients with Parkinson's disease using a newly developed magnetic resonance imaging technique that can demonstrate neuromelanin-related contrast. The high-resolution neuromelanin images obtained by a 3-T scanner revealed high signal areas in the brain stem and these corresponded well with the location of the locus ceruleus and substantia nigra pars compacta in gross specimens. In Parkinson's disease patients, the signal intensity in the locus ceruleus and substantia nigra pars compacta was greatly reduced, suggesting depletion of neuromelanin-containing neurons. We conclude that neuromelanin magnetic resonance imaging can be used for direct visualization of the locus ceruleus and substantia nigra pars compacta, and may help in detecting pathological changes in Parkinson's disease and related disorders.
aDepartment of Radiology
bCenter for EM and Bio-Imaging Research/Neuroanatomy
Departments of cNeurology
dPsychiatry, Iwate Medical University, Morioka and
eDepartment of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Metropolitan Matsuzawa Hospital, Tokyo, Japan
Correspondence and requests for reprints to Makoto Sasaki, MD, Department of Radiology, Iwate Medical University, 19-1 Uchimaru, Morioka 020-8505, Japan
Tel: +81 19 651 5111; fax: +81 19 622 1091; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsorship: This work was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Advanced Medical Science Research and a Grant-in-Aid for Science Research (17591290) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
Received 24 April 2006; accepted 12 May 2006