Congratulations to Drs. McFarland, Okun and Vaillancourt on the publication of “Free‐water and BOLD imaging changes in Parkinson’s disease patients chronically treated with a MAO‐B inhibitor,” which was published in the April edition of Human Brain Mapping.
Rasagiline is a monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor that possesses no amphetamine-like properties, and provides symptomatic relief in early and late stages of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Data in animal models of PD suggest that chronic administration of rasagiline is associated with structural changes in the substantia nigra, and raise the question whether the structure and function of the basal ganglia could be different in PD patients treated chronically with rasagiline as compared with PD patients not treated with rasagiline. Here, we performed a retrospective cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study at 3 T that investigated nigrostriatal function and structure in PD patients who had taken rasagiline before testing (∼8 months), PD who had not taken rasagiline before testing, and age-matched controls. The two PD groups were selected a priori to not differ significantly in age, sex, disease duration, severity of symptoms, cognitive status, and total levodopa equivalent daily dose of medication. We evaluated percent signal change in the posterior putamen during force production using functional MRI, free-water in the posterior substantia nigra using diffusion MRI, and performance on a bimanual coordination task using a pegboard test. All patients were tested after overnight withdrawal from antiparkinsonian medication. The rasagiline group had greater percent signal change in the posterior putamen, less free-water in the posterior substantia nigra, and better performance on the coordination task than the group not taking rasagiline. These findings point to a possible chronic effect of rasagiline on the structure and function of the basal ganglia in PD.