Parkinson's Disease

Brainstem 'stop neurons' make us halt when we walk

A population of 'stop cells' in the brainstem is essential for the ability of mice to stop their locomotion, according to a new study by scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. In an article published in the journal ...

Nov 19, 2015
popularity66 comments 0
Parkinson's disease (also known as Parkinson disease, Parkinson's, idiopathic parkinsonism, primary parkinsonism, PD, or paralysis agitans) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain; the cause of this cell death is unknown. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related; these include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, cognitive and behavioural problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems. PD is more common in the elderly, with most cases occurring after the age of 50. The main motor symptoms are collectively called parkinsonism, or a "parkinsonian syndrome". Parkinson's disease is often defined as a parkinsonian syndrome that is idiopathic (having no known cause), although some atypical cases have a genetic origin. Many risk and protective factors have been investigated: the clearest evidence is for an increased risk of PD in people exposed to certain pesticides and a reduced risk in tobacco smokers. The pathology of the disease is characterized by the accumulation of a protein called alpha-synuclein into inclusions called Lewy bodies in neurons, and from insufficient formation and activity of dopamine produced in certain neurons within parts of the midbrain. Lewy bodies are the pathological hallmark of the idiopathic disorder, and the distribution of the Lewy bodies throughout the Parkinsonian brain varies from one individual to another. The anatomical distribution of the Lewy bodies is often directly related to the expression and degree of the clinical symptoms of each individual. Diagnosis of typical cases is mainly based on symptoms, with tests such as neuroimaging being used for confirmation. Modern treatments are effective at managing the early motor symptoms of the disease, mainly through the use of levodopa and dopamine agonists. As the disease progresses and dopaminergic neurons continue to be lost, a point eventually arrives at which these drugs become ineffective at treating the symptoms and at the same time produce a complication called dyskinesia, marked by involuntary writhing movements. Diet and some forms of rehabilitation have shown some effectiveness at alleviating symptoms. Surgery and deep brain stimulation have been used to reduce motor symptoms as a last resort in severe cases where drugs are ineffective. Research directions include investigations into new animal models of the disease and of the potential usefulness of gene therapy, stem cell transplants and neuroprotective agents. Medications to treat non-movement-related symptoms of PD, such as sleep disturbances and emotional problems, also exist. The disease is named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who published the first detailed description in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817. Several major organizations promote research and improvement of quality of life of those with the disease and their families. Public awareness campaigns include Parkinson's disease day (on the birthday of James Parkinson, April 11) and the use of a red tulip as the symbol of the disease. People with parkinsonism who have enhanced the public's awareness include Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali.

This text uses material from Wikipedia licensed under CC BY-SA

Latest Spotlight News

New strategy for treating arthritis discovered

Arthritis patients could one day benefit from a novel form of medicine, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Their early study indicates that arthritic cartilage, previously thought to be impenetrable ...

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...