Rhythm-specific modulation of the sensorimotor network in drug-naïve patients with Parkinson’s disease by levodopa
Brain activity during rest is characterized by slow (0.01–0.1 Hz) fluctuations of blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging signals. These fluctuations are organized as functional connectivity networks called resting-state networks, anatomically corresponding to specific neuronal circuits. As Parkinson’s disease is mainly characterized by a dysfunction of the sensorimotor pathways, which can be influenced by levodopa administration, the present study investigated the functional connectivity changes within the sensorimotor resting-state network in drug-naïve patients with Parkinson’s disease after acute levodopa administration. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled design, resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging was carried out in 20 drug-naïve patients with Parkinson’s disease, immediately before and 60 min after, oral administration of either levodopa or placebo. Control resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data were recorded in 18 age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers. Independent component analysis was performed to extract resting-state network maps and associated time-course spectral features. At the anatomical level, levodopa enhanced the sensorimotor network functional connectivity in the supplementary motor area, a region where drug-naïve patients with Parkinson’s disease exhibited reduced signal fluctuations compared with untreated patients. At the spectral frequency level, levodopa stimulated these fluctuations in a selective frequency band of the sensorimotor network. The reported effects induced by levodopa on sensorimotor network topological and spectral features confirm that the sensorimotor system is a target of acute levodopa administration in drug-naïve patients with Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, while the regional changes in supplementary motor area reflect the functional improvement in motor function, the rhythm-specific modulation induced by the dopamine precursor discloses a novel aspect of pharmacological stimulation in Parkinson’s disease, adding further insight to the comprehension of levodopa action.