A New Resource About Parkinson’s

A New Resource About Parkinson’s
July 28, 2014 NY TIMES

Because more than a million Americans, most over 60, have Parkinson’s disease, and because a recent Harris Poll survey indicates that many of them don’t feel well-informed about treatments or the way the disease progresses, let me pass along a new website called Partners in Parkinson’s.

Underwritten by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the pharmaceutical firm AbbVie, it offers information on the disease and its symptoms, explains how patients and caregivers can better cope with its effects, and provides sources of medical and other help.

The site includes a locator — drawn from the membership list of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society — that helps users find the closest movement disorder specialists.

One caution here: Research has shown that Parkinson’s patients fare better when treated by neurologists rather than general physicians. They survive longer, are less likely to fracture their hips and are less likely to be placed in nursing homes.

But does seeing a movement disorder specialist — who has additional training in Parkinson’s and related diseases and is usually affiliated with a major teaching hospital — provide additional benefits beyond treatment by a neurologist?

“Nobody really knows how much more seeing a super-specialist will make a difference because there are so few of us,” said Michael Okun, who is one of those super-specialists — a neurologist at the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation. “We all believe it in our hearts, but we need the data to support it and I haven’t seen a lot yet.”

Research underway in the Netherlands and a large longitudinal study being conducted at 20 medical centers in this country may help answer that question.

Meanwhile, there’s no standardized course of study or credentialing process to become a movement disorder specialist, or accrediting body that polices who can use that title. And there’s scant funding for fellowships to train doctors who want to specialize in Parkinson’s — a disturbing situation given the rising numbers of patients as the population ages.

Still, Dr. Okun said, “encouraging people to seek out doctors who are interested and experienced in treating Parkinson’s disease is a good thing.”

Paula Span is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”

Published in the New York Times


Pomegranate power vs Parkinson’s disease the unexpected Results

Pomegranate Power vs Parkinson’s Disease: The Unexpected Results

5 days ago by in aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, Animals Helping Humans, Brain, rats Tagged: , , , , , , ,

If you’re not familiar with pomegranate, it is a red fruit with a tough outer layer – only the juice and the seeds inside are edible.

This nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit has been revered as a symbol of health, fertility and eternal life and is one of the oldest known fruits, found in writings and artifacts of many cultures and religions.

Pomegranate juice has been popular in the past few years because it is commonly associated with numerous different health benefits. One of its main characteristics is that it has very potent antioxidant properties and has been extensively used as a natural medicine in many cultures.

The study design was aimed at evaluating the protective effects (antioxidants) of pomegranate juice in rats exposed to rotenone, a naturally-derived pesticide that mimics the neurodegeneration (conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain) observed in Parkinson’s disease.

Pomegranate juice was given to two of the four groups of rats with the thought the antioxidants would improve the nerve pathways of the brain of the effects of Parkinson’s in the rats’.  But just the opposite happened that surprised researchers when the study showed the destruction of the nerve pathways was made worse in the brain.

Is pomegranate juice good for you?


Cinnamon may be used to halt progression of Parkinson’s disease

Cinnamon may be used to halt progression of Parkinson’s disease, study suggests
Date: July 9, 2014
Source: Rush University Medical Center

Neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center have found that using cinnamon, a common food spice and flavoring material, can reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The results of the study were recently published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

“Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries,” said Kalipada Pahan, PhD, study lead researcher and the Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush. “This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.”

“Cinnamon is metabolized in the liver to sodium benzoate, which is an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment for hepatic metabolic defects associated with hyperammonemia,” said Pahan. It is also widely used as a food preservative due to its microbiocidal effect.

Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamonum cassia) and original Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) are two major types of cinnamon that are available in the US.

“Although both types of cinnamon are metabolized into sodium benzoate, by mass spectrometric analysis, we have seen that Ceylon cinnamon is much more pure than Chinese cinnamon as the latter contains coumarin, a hepatotoxic molecule,” said Pahan.

“Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs that protect the brain and stop the progression of PD,” said Pahan. “It is known that some important proteins like Parkin and DJ-1 decrease in the brain of PD patients.”

The study found that after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate, which then enters into the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalizes neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor functions in mice with PD.

This research was supported by grants from National Institutes of Health.

“Now we need to translate this finding to the clinic and test ground cinnamon in patients with PD. If these results are replicated in PD patients, it would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” said Dr. Pahan.

Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressive disease that affects a small area of cells within the mid-brain known as the substantia nigra. Gradual degeneration of these cells causes a reduction in a vital chemical neurotransmitter, dopamine. The decrease in dopamine results in one or more of the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease that includes: resting tremor on one side of the body; generalized slowness of movement; stiffness of limbs; and gait or balance problems. The cause of the disease is unknown. Both environmental and genetic causes of the disease have been postulated.

Parkinson’s disease affects about 1.2 million patients in the United States and Canada. Although 15 percent of patients are diagnosed before age 50, it is generally considered a disease that targets older adults, affecting one of every 100 persons over the age of 60. This disease appears to be slightly more common in men than women.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Rush University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:


1. Saurabh Khasnavis, Kalipada Pahan. Cinnamon Treatment Upregulates Neuroprotective Proteins Parkin and DJ-1 and Protects Dopaminergic Neurons in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s11481-014-9552-2

Wii Video Games

Science News

Wii Video Games May Improve Cognitive Abilities in Parkinson’s Disease

Playing sports games using video consoles such as the Nintendo Wii may improve some cognitive abilities in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), according to a new study published in Neurology. In this study, Wii games worked as well or better than a computer program designed specifically for cognitive training. In addition, the Wii game console is less expensive and more entertaining than the computer program, researchers say.

People with PD often experience problems with attention and memory, which range in severity from mild cognitive impairment to full-blown dementia. Treating mild cognitive deficits could not only improve a person’s quality of life, but also might delay the onset of dementia. Unfortunately, there are no known medications that can successfully treat mild cognitive impairment in people with PD.

Computer programs designed to enhance cognition can improve cognitive problems in people with or without PD. However, some people find it difficult to apply the cognitive training, which focuses on specific tasks, to situations in their daily lives.

Researchers led by Peter Fuhr, M.D., at the University of Basel, in Switzerland, wondered whether Wii games, which involve movement and were not designed specifically for cognitive training, could improve cognitive abilities like attention, memory and visualization in people with PD, similarly to a cognitive-training computer program. So the researchers randomly assigned 39 people with PD who did not have dementia to two groups: one that played sports games (table tennis, swordplay, archery, and air sports) on the Nintendo Wii, and one that used the CogniPlus computer program, which provides training in specific cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, planning and response.

Each group trained three times per week for four weeks. To avoid falls, people remained seated while playing games on the Wii and also were seated for computer program training. The study participants performed neuropsychological tests before and after their four weeks of training.


  • Compared with CogniPlus, Wii training significantly enhanced attention in people with PD.
  • Wii training also appeared to improve visualization and memory of specific events better than CogniPlus, although these differences were not statistically significant.

What Does It Mean?

Cognitive impairment can be a frustrating aspect of life with PD. Previous studies have shown that cognitive training can improve memory and attention in people with PD, increasing their quality of life and perhaps delaying the onset of dementia.

In this study, contrary to the researchers’ expectations, Wii video games improved cognitive abilities in people with PD. Not only that, the people with PD who played the Wii games performed even better in tests of attention than those who used CogniPlus training.

In contrast to CogniPlus, Wii sports games are not designed to treat cognitive problems, rather they are meant for entertainment. However, other studies have shown that physical exercise, such as that obtained by using the Wii’s motion-detecting controllers, can improve cognitive abilities. Also, Wii games may enhance people’s ability to learn new tasks, which could better translate to situations they encounter in everyday life.

These results suggest that Wii video games may be a less expensive and more entertaining alternative to computer programs such as CogniPlus. Because many people consider Wii games fun, they may be more likely to play the games than to use computer programs designed for cognitive training, which might seem like work. Also, they could play them at home, without requiring the travel to a doctor’s office or the additional cost often required with cognitive-training programs.

Further research is needed to determine the details such as exactly how video game consoles, such as the Wii, can improve cognitive abilities, whether longer periods of training provide greater benefits, and whether the training actually improves performance in real-life situations. Nevertheless, game consoles represent an inexpensive and fun way to potentially improve cognitive performance.

Reference: Zimmermann R, Gschwandtner U, Benz N, Hatz F, Schindler C, Taub E, Fuhr P (2014) Cognitive training in Parkinson disease: Cognition-specific vs nonspecific computer training. Neurology 82:1219–1226. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000287 http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000000287

Published in the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation Summer 2914 Newsletter


Sea Creature may hold key to treating Parkinson’s

Could this simple sea creature hold the key to treating Parkinson’s?

A scientist in Florida who studies simple sea animals known as comb jellies says he has discovered a path to a new form of brain development that may one day lead to treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Leonid L. Moroz/Mathew Citarella

His findings are published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.


Comb jellies, or ctenophores, look like tiny disco balls and propel themselves around oceans using specialized hairs, lapping up small prey with their sticky tentacles. “They are aliens who’ve come to Earth,” says Leonid Moroz, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida in St Augustine.

The genome of the Pacific sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia bachei)…adds to the mystery of ctenophores. The sequence omits whole classes of genes found in all other animals, including genes normally involved in immunity, develop­ment and neural function. For that reason, the researchers contend that ctenophores evolved a nervous system independently.


More at Reuters:


Traditional scientific reasoning has held that simple nerve nets evolved all the way up to a human level of complexity along a single path. But it now appears that comb jellies took a different route, using neurochemical language that does not exist in other animals.

“All other animals have the same chemical language and these guys have completely different language. It’s not only different grammar. It’s a different alphabet,” Moroz said.

You can listen to a Nature podcast on the findings here.

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing’s in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net

Apathy in Parkinson’s Disease: Neurophysiological Evidence of Impaired Incentive Processing

March 16, 2014

Apathy is one of the most common and debilitating nonmotor manifestations of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and is characterized by diminished motivation, decreased goal-directed behavior, and flattened affect. Despite its high prevalence, its underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood, having been associated with executive dysfunction, and impaired emotional processing and decision making. Apathy, as a syndrome, has recently been associated with reduced activation in the ventral striatum, suggesting that early- to middle-stage Parkinson’s disease patients with this manifestation may have a compromised mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic pathway and impaired incentive processing. To test this hypothesis, we measured the amplitude of the feedback-related negativity, an event-related brain potential associated with performance outcome valence, following monetary gains and losses in human PD patients (12 women) and healthy controls (6 women) performing a gambling task. Early- to middle-stage PD patients presenting clinically meaningful symptoms of apathy were compared with nonapathetic PD patients and healthy controls. Patients with cognitive impairment, depression, and other psychiatric disturbances were excluded. Results showed that the amplitude of the feedback-related negativity, measured as the difference wave in the event-related brain potential between gains and losses, was significantly reduced in PD patients with apathy compared with nonapathetic patients and healthy controls. These findings indicate impaired incentive processing and suggest a compromised mesocorticolimbic pathway in cognitively intact PD patients with apathy.

The Journal of Neuroscience, 23 April 2014, 34(17): 5918-5926; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0251-14.2014

Assistive Technology Blog – Google Glass

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Google Glass: For People With Parkinson’s Disease?

Woman wearing google glass

Wearable technology has gained a lot of momentum in the last year or so. The most popular, or should we say notorious, wearable tech that has come out is Google Glass, which has received both praise and backlash from different groups because of all the things that it can do. Taking pictures, making videos, sending emails, finding directions, setting reminders – everything can be done with just a few voice commands or gestures. While society debates whether or not Google Glass should be allowed to be worn everywhere, there is a group of researchers that is busy making Google Glass extremely useful for people with a certain disease – Parkinson’s.

Since Parkinson’s causes shaking/tremors,  sudden stiffness of limbs , posture instability, “freezing” besides mood swings and cognitive changes, scientists at Newcastle University are exploring various ways to see how Google Glass can be used to help people with Parkinson’s, thus providing workarounds to live a life that’s not constantly hampered by symptoms that ultimately bring down confidence levels in the person dealing with them.
One area that’s being looked at is setting reminders. Since patients are required to take medication everyday and on time, Google Glass can easily send regular reminders to the patient reminding that they should take their medication. Reminders would not only tell them when to take their medication but how/ with what (water; food – different combinations at different times of day).  Similar discrete reminders can be sent to the patient to remind them to swallow their drool – a common problem with people with Parkinson’s disease because of lack of motor control.
Another common symptom is freezing, where the patient just gets stuck and is unable to walk. In such cases, the patient would want to call someone who could come get them, but calling on a phone with a touch screen can become a big hassle for someone with not so good motor skills. Google Glass can be helpful in such situations because someone can be easily called by just using voice commands. Since it is always connected to the Internet, friends and carers will be easily able to see where the patient is, and would come and get them.
Google glass also has maps and directions. If someone is out and about, chances of them getting lost are minimal because Glass displays turn by turn directions too, thus providing relief to not just the patient but also family and friends.
This video shows the researchers tell us in detail about their research:

The research is still at its very early stages, but what the volunteers with Parkinson’s, who helped test Google Glass, say is remarkable. They are happy with what they experienced, and they thought that Glass really helped them control symptoms and live a normal life. Hit the source link to read their testimonial.

Let’s hope we get to hear more about this research in the future!

Source: Newcastle University via Gizmodo
Image source: Ubergizmo


Acupuncture Helps Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Acupuncture Helps Parkinson’s Disease Patients

on 24 April 2014.

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University of Arizona doctors find acupuncture effective for the treatment of balance and gait disorders in Parkinson’s disease patients. The research team from the surgery and neurology departments measured significant clinical improvements in overall balance, gait speed and stride length. The results were published in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Acupuncture improves gait and balance in Parkinson’s disease patients.

The researchers convened to measure objective improvements on balance and gait for Parkinson’s disease patients through the implementation of acupuncture. Balance and gait are the focus of therapeutics for Parkinson’s patients because they are predictors of the risk of falling and the impact on the quality of life. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder affecting movement. Changes include the onset of tremors, slower movements, shuffling, difficulty swallowing, fainting, reduced arm sway, rigidity and changes in speech and gait. There is no known biomedical cure but medications including levodopa, COMT inhibitors, MAO-B inhibitors, dopamine agonists and other medications are used to control symptoms. Surgical interventions include the implantation of deep brain stimulators.

In the study, patients were randomly assigned to an acupuncture group or a control group. The acupuncture group received electroacupuncture. The control group received sham acupuncture to rule out variables including the placebo effect. Patients received one treatment per week for three weeks and each treatment duration lasted a total of 30 minutes.

Objective measurements were taken from various positions and during many types of activities. Balance measurements included assessment of the relationship between the mediolateral center of mass sway with the anteroposterior sway. These measurements were taken with the eyes open, closed and during multitasking. Gait measurements were taken during fast walking, postural transitions and related activities.

The researchers tabulated the results and measured an overall improvement in balance by 31% in the acupuncture group. Gait speed showed a significant increase by 10% and stride length increased by 5% for patients receiving acupuncture. Control group patients showed no improvements.

ElectroacupunctureBalance, gait and stride length were all significantly improved by the application of electroacupuncture. Use of a sham acupuncture control group eliminated the possibility of the placebo effect. As a result, the researchers concluded, “EA (electroacupuncture) is an effective therapy in improving certain aspects of balance and gait disorders in PD (Parkinson’s disease).”

Lei, Hong, Nima Toosizadeh, Michael Schwenk, Scott Sherman, Stephen Karp, Saman Parvaneh, Esther Esternberg, and Bijan Najafi. “Objective Assessment of Electro-acupuncture Benefit for Improving Balance and Gait in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease (P3. 074).” Neurology 82, no. 10 Supplement (2014): P3-074.

- See more at: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1296-acupuncture-helps-parkinson-s-disease-patients#sthash.FwoYTdTd.dpuf