Manganese (Mn), an element found in many foods, is an important and essential nutrient for proper health and maintenance. It is toxic in high doses, however, and exposure to excessive levels can result in the onset of a neurological disorder similar to, but distinct from, Parkinson's disease. Historically, Mn neurotoxicity was most commonly associated with various occupations, such as Mn mining, welding and steel production. More recently, increases in both blood and brain Mn levels have been observed in persons with liver disease or those receiving prolonged parenteral nutrition. Additionally, rodent data suggest that iron deficiency and anemia may be risk factors for Mn neurotoxicity.
Clinically, brain Mn accumulation can be monitored in vivo using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) due to the paramagnetic nature of this element. Indeed, MRI has been used in a variety of settings to evaluate the brain Mn deposition in various populations. This review focuses on the use of MRI technology in studies related specifically to Mn neurotoxicity. Thus, we will examine reports using MRI to confirm brain Mn accumulation in human populations, and conclude with data from non-human primate and rodent models of Mn neurotoxicity.