Background: Anxiety is a common non-motor symptom among patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Although the etiology of anxiety in PD is likely to be multifactorial, a dysfunction in the dopaminergic system might be implicated in its pathogenesis. The aim of our study was to investigate a possible dopaminergic mechanism involved in anxiety in newly diagnosed never-medicated PD patients using SPECT and I-123-FP-CIT as the dopamine transporter ligand.Methods: Thirty-four newly diagnosed, untreated PD patients with asymmetric motor symptoms were included in the study: 17 patients with right- and 17 with left-motor onset, matched for age, disease duration and motor disability constituted the group. They were all evaluated for anxiety and depression and underwent an SPECT with I-123-EP-CIT. Dopamine transporter (DAT) availability values for right and left caudate and putamen were calculated and compared between patients with and without anxiety. Regression analyses were also performed in order to correlate DAT availability with the severity of the anxiety symptoms.Results: Comparison between PD patients with and those without anxiety revealed significant differences of DAT availability in all the examined regions except the right putamen. In the group of patients considered as a whole, a significant correlation was found between increased anxiety severity and decreased DAT availability in right caudate.Conclusions: We reported an association between nigrostriatal DAT availability deficits and anxiety symptoms in newly diagnosed, untreated PD patients. Our results suggest that hypofunction of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system may represent one of the functional anomalies involved in anxiety in PD from the earliest stages of disease and irrespective of any therapy. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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