Introduction: The study aim was to identify longitudinal abnormalities of functional connectivity and its relation with motor disability in early to moderately advanced stages of Parkinson's disease patients. Methods: 3.0T structural and resting-state functional MRI was performed in healthy subjects (n = 16) and Parkinson's disease patients (n = 16) with mean disease duration of 2.2 ± 1.2 years at baseline with a clinical follow-up of 1.5 ± 0.3 years. Resting-state fMRI analysis included region-to-region connectivity in correlation with UPDRS-III scores and computation of Global Efficiency and Degree Centrality. Results: At baseline, patients' connectivity increased between the cerebellum and somatomotor network, and decreased between motor regions (Rolandic operculum, precentral gyrus, supplementary motor area, postcentral gyrus) and cingulate connectivity. At 1.5 years follow-up, connectivity remained altered in the same regions identified at baseline. The cerebellum showed additional hyperconnectivity within itself and to the caudate nucleus, thalamus and amygdala compared to controls. These differences correlated with UPDRS-III scores. Seed-based connectivity revealed increased involvement of the default mode network with precentral gyrus in patients at follow-up investigation. Conclusion: Resting-state fMRI identified marked disturbances of the overall architecture of connectivity in Parkinson's disease. The noted alterations in cortical motor areas were associated with cerebellar hyperconnectivity in early to moderately advanced stages of Parkinson's disease suggesting ongoing attempts of recovery and compensatory mechanism for affected functions. The potential to identify connectivity alterations in regions related to both motor and attentional functions requires further evaluation as an objective marker to monitor disease progression, and medical, as well as surgical interventions.
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