The work in our lab involves the study of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) using PET imaging and functional MRI. Our research aims to study the brain changes occurring in PD in order to understand the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of this disease and its symptoms. We explore neurophysiological and neurochemical changes responsible for the motor, cognitive (e.g. executive functions, etc.) and behaviour symptoms (e.g. impulse control disorders, dopamine dysregulation syndrome, visual hallucinations, etc.) observed in PD. In addition, our lab combines molecular PET imaging with brain stimulation techniques, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and deep brain simulation (DBS) to study functional connectivity and neurotransmission in the human brain.
Using these approaches, we have discovered that PD patients present significant neural abnormalities also outside the striatum, a region generally associated with PD. In particular, we have shown that PD patients with executive dysfunction present important changes in different prefrontal areas involved in cognitive processing. Similarly, in those PD patients who develop impulse control disorders, we showed that dopamine agonist medications interfere with brain regions associated with addictive behaviour.
• Investigating executive functions and mild cognitive impairment in PD with dopaminergic PET ligands and fMRI.
• Investigating reward system and impulse control disorders in PD, using dopaminergic PET ligands.
• Investigating default network in PD with fMRI and PET.
• Investigating prefrontal-striatal functional connectivity with rTMS and deep brain stimulation in PD with dopaminergic PET ligands.
• Investigating prefrontal-striatal structural connectivity in PD with diffuse tension imaging
• Investigating microglia activation in PD with PET tracers.
Antonio P. Strafella, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Sang Soo Cho, PhD, Nicola Ray, PhD, Giovanna Pellecchia, PhD, Barbara Segura, PhD; Maryam Shirmohammad, Msc, Yuko Koshimori, Msc (graduate student), Leigh Christopher, graduate student.