Background: Parkinson's disease (PD) is marked clinically by motor symptoms and pathologically by Lewy bodies and dopamine neuron loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). Higher iron accumulation, assessed by susceptibility MRI, also is observed as PD progresses. Recently, evidence has suggested that PD affects the retina. Objective: To better understand retinal alterations in PD and their association to clinical and SNc iron-related imaging metrics. Methods: Ten PD and 12 control participants (2 eyes each) from an ongoing PD imaging biomarker study underwent enhanced depth imaging optical coherence tomography evaluation. Choroidal (vascular) thickness and nerve layers were measured in 4 subregions [superior, temporal, inferior, and nasal] and at 3 foveal distances (1, 1.5, and 3 mm). These metrics were compared between PD and control groups. For significantly different metrics, their associations with clinical [levodopa equivalent daily dosage (LEDD), motor and visuospatial function] and SNc susceptibility MRI metrics [R2* and quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM)] were explored. Results: Compared to control participants, PD participants had a thicker choroid (p = 0.005), but no changes in nerve layers. Higher mean choroidal thickness was associated with lower LEDD (p < 0.01) and better visuospatial function (p < 0.05). Subregion analyses revealed higher choroidal thickness correlated with lower LEDD and better motor and visuospatial measures. Higher mean choroidal thickness also was associated with lower nigral iron MRI (p < 0.05). Conclusion: A small cohort of PD research participants displayed higher choroidal thickness that was related to better clinical performance and less nigral pathology. These intriguing findings warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1857-1868
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Parkinson's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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