Background: Mild Parkinsonian signs (MPS) are commonly seen in aging, and have been related to cerebral Small Vessel Diseases (SVD) with no univocal results.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the cross-sectional relation between MPS and White Matter Hyperintensities (WMH), lacunes, caudate atrophy, and global cerebral atrophy in a large cohort of Neurologically and Cognitively Healthy (NCH) aging individuals.
Method: 1,219 NCH individuals were included in the analysis, and underwent standard brain MRI. The items of the motor section of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale were used to evaluate tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and gait/balance/axial dysfunction. Caudate atrophy and global cerebral atrophy were assessed through the bicaudate ratio and the lateral ventricles to brain ratio, respectively. WMH were assessed through two visual rating scales. Lacunes were also rated. Associations of MPS with vascular risk factors/diseases and imaging findings were determined through the logistic regression analysis.
Results: Frontal and basal ganglia lacunes, frontal WMH, caudate atrophy, and global cerebral atrophy were associated with bradykinesia. Basal ganglia lacunes, caudate atrophy, and global cerebral atrophy were associated with gait/balance/axial dysfunction. Rigidity was associated with frontal WMH, and tremor with caudate atrophy and global cerebral atrophy. NCH subjects with MPS, performed less than subjects without MPS in tests evaluating global cognition and language.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that in NCH aging individuals, MPS are associated with cortical and subcortical vascular and atrophic changes, and are probably, a warning sign of incipient cognitive decline. Subjects with MPS should manage rigorously cerebral SVD to prevent future physical and cognitive disabilities.