Neuroscience in Denmark

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General information

Name (center, department, group or other)
Dep. of Nuclear Medicine & PET Centre, Aarhus University Hospital (Borghammer group)
Contact name
Per Borghammer
Contact email
Contact title
Consultant, MD, PhD, DMSc
29. June 2015
(Last edited: 6. March 2017)

Brief description of research activities

My work has been focused on developing the first imaging method for studying the parasympathetic nervous system. This is particularly important in Parkinson's disease (PD), since the parasympathetic nervous system is known to be involved very early on in this disorder. Recent studies have postulated that PD may be initiated in the gut and spread through the nervous system in a prion-like fashion - to a large extent through the parasympathetic vagus nerve. We have validated the positron emission tomography (PET) tracer 11C-donepezil, a marker for acetylcholinesterase, and demonstrated that PD patients at a moderate disease stage display a profound decrease of 11C-donepezil signal in the intestine and pancreas, in accordance with a parasympathetic deficit (Gjerløff et al, Brain 2015). Recently, in cooperation other researchers at Aarhus University, we postulated that peptic ulcer patients, who had undergone full vagotomy many years ago, would be protected from developing PD (Svensson et al, Ann Neural 2015). Indeed, these patients exhibit a 50% decreased risk of PD at follow-up, suggesting that the "gut-first hypothesis" of PD may be correct. Lately, we studied de novo PD patients with 11C-donepezil PET and found that early patients display decreased PET signal in the small intestine and particularly in the colon. We are also studying patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder, since >75% of these patients will eventually develop PD, and therefor constitutes a possibility to study PD patients in the pre-motor phase.

KEYWORDS: Positron Emission Tomography, Parkinson's Disease, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Autonomic Nervous System, Vagotomy, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Dementia, Alpha-synuclein


Positron Emission Tomography
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography
Autonomic nervous system
Parkinson's disease

Research tools and techniques

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Animal Models of Parkinson's disease

Scientific Personnel

No of Associate Professors/Postdocs: 1
No of PhD students: 3
Other: 2

Key references from within the last 5 years

In Vivo cortical tau in Parkinson's disease using 18F-AV-1451 positron emission tomography. Hansen AK, Damholdt MF, Fedorova TD, Knudsen K, Parbo P, Ismail R, Østergaard K, Brooks DJ, Borghammer P. Mov Disord. 2017 Mar 3. doi: 10.1002/mds.26961. [Epub ahead of print]

Decreased intestinal acetylcholinesterase in early Parkinson disease: An 11C-donepezil PET study. Fedorova TD, Seidelin LB, Knudsen K, Schacht AC, Geday J, Pavese N, Brooks DJ, Borghammer P. Neurology. Feb 21;88(8):775-781.

Constipation in parkinson's disease: Subjective symptoms, objective markers, and new perspectives. Knudsen K, Krogh K, Østergaard K, Borghammer P. Mov Disord. 2017 Jan;32(1):94-105.

Appendectomy and risk of Parkinson's disease: A nationwide cohort study with more than 10 years of follow-up. Svensson E, Horváth-Puhó E, Stokholm MG, Sørensen HT, Henderson VW, Borghammer P. Mov Disord. 2016 Dec;31(12):1918-1922.

In vivo imaging of neuromelanin in Parkinson's disease using 18F-AV-1451 PET. Hansen AK, Knudsen K, Lillethorup TP, Landau AM, Parbo P, Fedorova T, Audrain H, Bender D, Østergaard K, Brooks DJ, Borghammer P. Brain. 2016 Jul;139(Pt 7):2039-49.

Pathological α-synuclein in gastrointestinal tissues from prodromal Parkinson disease patients. Stokholm MG, Danielsen EH, Hamilton-Dutoit SJ, Borghammer P. Ann Neurol. 2016 Jun;79(6):940-9.

Vagotomy and subsequent risk of Parkinson's disease. Svensson E, Horváth-Puhó E, Thomsen RW, Djurhuus JC, Pedersen L, Borghammer P, Sørensen HT. Ann Neurol. 2015 Oct;78(4):522-9.

Gjerløff T, Fedorova T, Knudsen K, Munk OL, Nahimi A, Jacobsen S, Danielsen EH, Terkelsen AJ, Hansen J, Pavese N, Brooks DJ, Borghammer P (2015). Imaging Acetylcholinesterase Density in Peripheral Organs in Parkinson’s Disease with 11C-Donepezil Positron Emission Tomography. Brain. Mar;138(Pt 3):653-63.

Gjerløff T, Jakobsen S, Nahimi A, Munk OL, Bender D, Olsen AK, Vase KH, Hansen SB, Brooks DJ, Borghammer P (2014). In Vivo Imaging of Human Acetylcholinesterase Density in Peripheral Organs using 11C-Donepezil: Dosimetry, Biodistribution, and Kinetic Analyses. J Nucl Med. 55(11): 1818-24.
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