Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disorder affecting brain nerve cells. The disease develops when dopamine-producing nerve cells located within the substantia nigra become damaged. This results in a loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays an important role in movement, motivation, reward processing, and other functions. PD currently has no cure, but there are treatments that slow down its progression and extend an individual’s life. Basic research on PD has led to many developments that offer new hope for those living with the disease. Let’s explore some of the latest advances in Parkinson’s:
Deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that involves placing electrodes directly into certain areas of the brain to deliver electrical stimulation to specific areas. In PD patients, DBS has been used to treat symptoms related to movement and cognition, such as tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia. DBS might be an effective therapy for Parkinson’s disease because the disease often leads to a reduction in the amount of dopamine in the brain. This leads to symptoms such as severe muscle rigidity, reduced movement initiation, and a lack of motivation. In some people with PD, DBS can effectively reduce these symptoms, making movement, talking, and daily life easier.
Optogenetics and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback is a treatment method in which a patient uses computer technology to control his brain activity. During the therapy, the patient uses EEG sensors to observe his brain activity. He then uses mental imagery to control brain activity to improve his symptoms. Neurofeedback was first used to treat patients with epilepsy, but it has been successfully used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms, such as bradykinesia and reduced movement initiation. Optogenetics is an emerging field of research that uses genetic engineering techniques to make specific neurons or groups of neurons produce and secrete certain chemicals. This allows the control of the cells with light, allowing the neuroscience field to make neurons produce dopamine or another chemical. Researchers have used optogenetics to control neurons in a specific brain area to treat neuropsychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Brain-based robots and exoskeleton
Robotics is a rapidly developing field that’s already been used to help people with disabilities, such as ALS and neurodegenerative diseases. Now, researchers are using robotics to help people with Parkinson’s by developing brain-based robots. These robots are connected to an implanted neurostimulator that uses stimulation to regulate brain activity. The researchers believe that the robots will allow patients to improve their movement and reduce their symptoms. Exoskeletons are machines that help people walk again who have had injuries that have left them wheelchair-bound. Exoskeletons can be used to treat Parkinson’s through brain stimulation. This can reduce the symptoms of bradykinesia and rigidity, making it easier for patients to walk and live independently.
Ongoing Trials for Parkinson’s Disease
Deep brain stimulation and neurofeedback are currently in clinical trials for Parkinson’s. Patients can participate in these studies and have their neurostimulation and neurofeedback systems implanted. Researchers are studying these treatments to see how much they can improve the symptoms of the disease and to see if they can slow down the progression of the disease. Another ongoing trial uses stem cells to restore the dopamine cells within the brain. Stem cells can transform into different types of cells. Researchers are hoping that they can use this method to restore dopamine cell function and improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s. These are just a few of the ongoing trials for Parkinson’s disease. Many more studies are being conducted to improve treatment options and find better treatments for the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a devastating neurological disorder affecting millions worldwide. While there is currently no cure for the disease, there are treatments that can improve symptoms, extend an individual’s life and help people with the disease live more independently. Deep brain stimulation and neurofeedback can reduce symptoms of rigidity and bradykinesia and help improve movement. DBS and optogenetics can help restore dopamine production in the brain, reducing symptoms including severe muscle rigidity and reduced movement initiation. The development of brain-based robots and exoskeletons can help people walk again, reducing symptoms of bradykinesia and rigidity. Ongoing trials for Parkinson’s disease use neurostimulation and neurofeedback, stem cells, and robotics to see if they can improve symptoms of the disease and slow its progression of the disease.
Dr. Ronald Bissell is a retired surgeon, author of 6 books on Personal and Spiritual Growth, writer of numerous articles and facilitator of workshops. He has been giving talks to help people with life-threatening diseases for the past 10 years. After three years of chemotherapy he recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat Multiple Myeloma. His work now involves helping others with life-threatening diseases as well as teaching people how to live their best lives without fear or anxiety.