Evidence for adaptive cortical changes in swallowing in Parkinson's disease.

Brain

PubMedID: 23412935

Suntrup S, Teismann I, Bejer J, Suttrup I, Winkels M, Mehler D, Pantev C, Dziewas R, Warnecke T. Evidence for adaptive cortical changes in swallowing in Parkinson's disease. Brain. 2013;136(Pt 3):726-38.
Dysphagia is a relevant symptom in Parkinson's disease, whose pathophysiology is poorly understood. It is mainly attributed to degeneration of brainstem nuclei. However, alterations in the cortical contribution to deglutition control in the course of Parkinson's disease have not been investigated. Here, we sought to determine the patterns of cortical swallowing processing in patients with Parkinson's disease with and without dysphagia. Swallowing function in patients was objectively assessed with fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation. Swallow-related cortical activation was measured using whole-head magnetoencephalography in 10 dysphagic and 10 non-dysphagic patients with Parkinson's disease and a healthy control group during self-paced swallowing. Data were analysed applying synthetic aperture magnetometry, and group analyses were done using a permutation test. Compared with healthy subjects, a strong decrease of cortical swallowing activation was found in all patients. It was most prominent in participants with manifest dysphagia. Non-dysphagic patients with Parkinson's disease showed a pronounced shift of peak activation towards lateral parts of the premotor, motor and inferolateral parietal cortex with reduced activation of the supplementary motor area. This pattern was not found in dysphagic patients with Parkinson's disease. We conclude that in Parkinson's disease, not only brainstem and basal ganglia circuits, but also cortical areas modulate swallowing function in a clinically relevant way. Our results point towards adaptive cerebral changes in swallowing to compensate for deficient motor pathways. Recruitment of better preserved parallel motor loops driven by sensory afferent input seems to maintain swallowing function until progressing neurodegeneration exceeds beyond the means of this adaptive strategy, resulting in manifestation of dysphagia.