Depression can occur before the onset of motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. The pathophysiology of depression in PD involves various brain regions and relevant functional circuits. This study investigated whether there exist distinctive patterns of presynaptic monoamine transporter densities in the basal ganglia depending on the degree of depression in patients with PD. A total of 123 early and drug-naïve PD patients were enrolled. Their affective status was evaluated by the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), and subjects were subgrouped into one of the following three groups according to their MADRS scores: no depression, mild depression, and moderate-to-severe depression. All patients underwent positron emission tomography (PET) using 18F-N-(3-fluoropropyl)-2beta-carbon ethoxy-3beta-(4-iodophenyl) nortropane. The PET images were normalized, and differences in the regional standardized uptake value ratios (SUVRs) for each side of the caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, thalamus, and ventral striatum were analyzed and compared between the three groups. A trend analysis was performed across the groups to discern any associations between SUVR values of the basal ganglia and depression severity. The SUVR values of the caudate, anterior caudate nuclei, and ventral striatum declined as MADRS increased. The SUVR values of the striatum showed an inverse dose-dependent trend of antero- and ventroposterior gradient across the groups. This result indirectly revealed the involvement of the associative and limbic circuitry of the brain that are modulated by monoamines in early PD with depression. This might suggest an in vivo causal relationship between the ventral striatum, caudate and depression.
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