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Funded Studies

Development of Standardized Measurements for Monitoring the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease via MRI

Study Rationale: One of the difficulties in research towards new treatments in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the diversity of disease presentations and the lack of tools to measure the effect of a treatment. Monitoring the brain on MRI scans provides insights on structural changes, both large and small, and research has already indicated that these measures are a promising means to assess and predict disease progression. In this study, we develop a set of standardized brain measurements that can be obtained from an MRI scan easily and automatically. These measurements will allow clinicians and researchers to monitor specific aspects of PD progression. 

Hypothesis: We hypothesize that MRI measures that evaluate the brain at the structural and microstructural levels can be used to predict motor and cognitive outcomes in PD and can help in clinical decision making. 

Study Design: We will make use of existing clinical and MRI datasets from individuals with PD who have participated in a variety of studies. We will use artificial intelligence algorithms to measure multiple aspects of the brain on MRI scans and evaluate which ones correlate best with motor and cognitive outcomes and which ones are best in predicting disease progression. We will then select key measurements to generate a standardized assessment tool that can be used for additional research and, ultimately, in clinical practice. The clinical utility of this tool will be assessed through case studies evaluated by independent neurologists. 

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: The development of objective and reproducible standardized MRI brain measurements will facilitate assessment of PD progression or treatment response before changes in motor or cognitive outcomes would be noticed. This tool will allow treatment decisions to be made earlier, improving the overall outcomes for people with PD. 

Next Steps for Development: The results of our study will be validated in an experimental study in a large group of people with PD. Regulatory procedures will be followed to allow the result of our work to be used not only in research but also in clinical practice. 


  • Kathleen Poston, MD, MS

    Stanford, CA United States

  • Annemie Ribeens, PhD

    Leuven Belgium

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