Locus Coeruleus Integrity from 7 T MRI Relates to Apathy and Cognition in Parkinsonian Disorders.


BACKGROUND: Neurodegeneration in the locus coeruleus (LC) contributes to neuropsychiatric symptoms in both Parkinson's disease (PD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Spatial precision of LC imaging is improved with ultrahigh field 7 T magnetic resonance imaging. OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to characterize the spatial patterns of LC pathological change in PD and PSP and the transdiagnostic relationship between LC signals and neuropsychiatric symptoms. METHODS: Twenty-five people with idiopathic PD, 14 people with probable PSP-Richardson's syndrome, and 24 age-matched healthy controls were recruited. Participants underwent clinical assessments and high-resolution (0.08 mm3 ) 7 T-magnetization-transfer imaging to measure LC integrity in vivo. Spatial patterns of LC change were obtained using subregional mean contrast ratios and significant LC clusters; we further correlated the LC contrast with measures of apathy and cognition, using both mixed-effect models and voxelwise analyses. RESULTS: PSP and PD groups showed significant LC degeneration in the caudal subregion relative to controls. Mixed-effect models revealed a significant interaction between disease-group and apathy-related correlations with LC degeneration (β = 0.46, SE [standard error] = 0.17, F(1, 35) = 7.46, P = 0.01), driven by a strong correlation in PSP (β = -0.58, SE = 0.21, t(35) = -2.76, P = 0.009). Across both disease groups, voxelwise analyses indicated that lower LC integrity was associated with worse cognition and higher apathy scores. CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between LC and nonmotor symptoms highlights a role for noradrenergic dysfunction across both PD and PSP, confirming the potential for noradrenergic therapeutic strategies to address transdiagnostic cognitive and behavioral features in neurodegenerative disease. © 2022 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.