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Donate Your Brain for Parkinson’s Research

Despite great advances in genetics and molecular biology, many aspects of research on diseases affecting the brain, including Parkinson’s, still depend on actual human brain tissue for study. How do researchers get these brains for study? They need you to become a brain donor! It is important for people with neurological diseases to donate their brains after death, but healthy brains are also needed for comparison. Brain retrieval must occur very quickly to be useful, so advance planning is...


Back to Reality: Hallucinations and Delusions in Parkinson’s

People with Parkinson’s disease may experience sensory misperceptions (hallucinations or illusions) or false beliefs (delusions). These tend to occur more in the later stages of the disease, and they can be mild and non-threatening or severe. Dr. Martha Nance, director of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at the Struthers Parkinson’s Center in Minneapolis, explains the causes of these symptoms, gives examples of how people with Parkinson’s might experience them and discusses...


Do You See What I See? Hallucinations and Parkinson’s Disease

Hallucinations might not be something you associate with Parkinson’s disease (PD), but they are a possibility in PD and can be a big problem, especially as the disease progresses. Visual hallucinations are the most common, but auditory and other sensory hallucinations also may occur. At first, it may be easy to distinguish the hallucinations from reality, but over time they can become more distressing for the person with Parkinson’s and their family, as well as a challenge for medication...


What Other Conditions Are Related to Parkinson's?

Parkinson’s is a complex disease with many symptoms that affect multiple parts of the body. These symptoms can lead to common complications, such as falls and food going down the windpipe into the lungs, causing pneumonia. At the same time, people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are at risk for conditions that occur in the general population, especially as we age, including heart disease and cancer. Some conditions (i.e., diabetes) even seem to be associated with a higher risk of...


Medical-Community Partnership for Parkinson’s Wellness

The Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative aims to build community hubs for people with Parkinson’s – outside the medical setting – to create more opportunities for exercise, connect people to support and educational resources and provide motivation to get out and be active. Founded ten years ago in New York and now expanded to Boston, Chicago, Tampa, FL, and Washington, DC, the initiative is a partnership between Parkinson’s Foundation Centers of Excellence and Jewish...


Ask the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline: Your Exercise Questions Answered

Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone, but for people with Parkinson’s disease it is more than healthy – exercise is medicine. Countless research studies have shown that exercise has benefits for both the body and the brain. But many people have questions about it – what to do, how to find the right programs, how to stay motivated, and even just what qualifies as a good form of exercise. These are some of the questions that come in to the Parkinson’s Foundation and...


Stall the Fall

People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are two times as likely to fall as other people their age. And while healthcare professionals recognize the extent of the problem, there is still a lot to learn about why they happen and what can be done to prevent them. Dr. Sotirios Parashos, Director of Research at the Struthers Parkinson's Center in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, explains that preventing falls involves a team of professionals, including...


Stem Cells and Parkinson's

Stem cells – those cells that can give rise to so many cell types in the body – have been touted as the cure-all for a variety of diseases, including Parkinson’s. But to date, attempts at stem cell transplantation into the brain have fallen short. Parkinson’s is one of the most complex diseases, with a variety of motor and non-motor symptoms and an impact on many systems of the body. Just inducing a cell to make dopamine is not the whole answer. But stem cells are still useful for drug...


Can an Asthma Drug Prevent Parkinson’s?

Alpha-synuclein is a protein in the human brain that is linked with the development of Parkinson’s disease. An important scientific paper came out in September 2017 describing how some common drugs, already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other purposes, may lower the production of alpha-synuclein – and potentially protect against Parkinson’s. Dr. David K. Simon, Director of the Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in...


Why and How to Participate in Parkinson's Research

Clinical trials – research studies that involve people – are key to medical advances. But sometimes it is hard to recruit and enroll enough participants to make the results meaningful. It is important for people with Parkinson’s disease to participate in clinical trials to help researchers find better ways to treat, and hopefully slow down or even stop, Parkinson’s. Some trials are short, lasting only a few weeks, while some can take years, but all trials aim to produce results that will...


Clinical Trials for Parkinson's

Therapies are available to treat Parkinson’s symptoms and improve quality of life for people living with the disease. But we don’t yet have a way to slow or stop Parkinson’s progression, and that is why research is critical. Dr. Tanya Simuni of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says this is an exciting time for the development of Parkinson’s therapeutics. She explains the clinical trials process and describes some ongoing...


Generic Drugs for Parkinson's

Generic drugs are a cheaper alternative to brand name drugs. But are they as effective? Once the patent on a branded drug expires, other companies are free to apply for approval of a generic version – a drug that acts in the body largely the same as the branded one. Dr. Rajesh Pahwa of the University of Kansas, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, describes how generics compare to brand name products and what to look for, and look out for, when getting a generic or making the...


What We’ve Learned from the Hispanic Parkinson’s Community

When you have a chronic, progressive condition like Parkinson’s disease, there is always something new to learn. But access to information and resources about Parkinson’s varies for individuals and communities. Dr. Claudia Martinez, the Hispanic outreach coordinator at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, describes the methods she uses to help Hispanic people with Parkinson’s get the best...


Extending the Reach of Parkinson's Resources and Services

Unfortunately, many communities do not have access to the most up-to-date information and high-quality resources on Parkinson’s disease, even in the biggest cities. Every community has its own culture and flavor, and community outreach programs must recognize these differences to be successful. To design appropriate programs, it is also crucial to have a trusted contact and champion within the community. Aaron Daley of the University of California, San Francisco, describes his center’s...


Young-Onset Parkinson's 101

A diagnosis of young-onset Parkinson’s disease brings with it special challenges. For example, deciding how and when to disclose the diagnosis at work and to children can be difficult, not to mention coping with a progressive condition and trying to plan for the future. Social worker Elaine Book discusses these challenges and more, as well as techniques for dealing with them.


The Keys to Driving with Parkinson’s

Driving is a complex task involving many physical skills and mental processes. Age, along with a chronic or progressive illness like Parkinson’s, affects these critical driving skills, making a driver less safe on the road. But giving up the keys is an emotionally charged issue. Lissa Kapust created DriveWise, a program that involves a multidisciplinary team of health professionals who do objective assessments of the many skills and mental abilities needed for safe driving.


A Vaccine for Parkinson's?

There are many drugs and therapies for Parkinson’s, but none halt progression of the disease. This is partly because we still do not understand exactly what causes Parkinson’s, so it is hard to figure out how to prevent it or slow it down. One potential target for new therapies is alpha-synuclein, a protein found in the human brain that is associated with the development of PD. Scientists are looking at ways to clear abnormal forms of alpha-synuclein from the brain using various immune...


Genetics as a Guide to Neuroprotection in Parkinson's Disease

For decades, most people with Parkinson’s disease have been able to control symptoms with levodopa and other drugs. But researchers have yet to find a way to protect neurons in the brain to slow down or stop progression of Parkinson’s. Dr. David K. Simon discusses how modern genetics can be a guide to developing new drugs that might preserve nerve cells and – ultimately – keep Parkinson’s from progressing.


New Levodopa Delivery Methods for Parkinson's

More than 50 years after its discovery, levodopa is still the most effective treatment for Parkinson’s, but some people experience “off” periods or dyskinesias with oral medications. Dr. Mark Guttman describes new delivery methods that promise to help with some of these problems, especially for people who have had Parkinson’s for many years. For example, levodopa infusions directly into the gut are currently available, and skin patches and special pills that stay in the stomach and release...


How to Manage Parkinson’s “Off” Time

Parkinson’s can be unpredictable – symptoms can come and go or get better and worse throughout the day. These so-called “on-off” fluctuations (also called motor fluctuations) and dyskinesias can be troubling, but movement disorder specialists can help with the choice of medication, dosages, and timing. Dr. Irene Malaty explains more about what causes these changes and how you can work with your doctor to manage them.


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