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Parkinson's Studies

Parkinson’s Disease (Overview)

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects approximately one million adults in America. It is caused by a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. This loss of dopamine results in the cardinal motor symptoms of PD: bradykinesia (slowed movement), tremor, rigidity, and postural instability. 

Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

While some symptoms of PD can be managed with medication, other symptoms, such as balance and gait, are less responsive to medication. Several studies demonstrate that exercise may be an effective adjunctive therapy for PD. In collaboration with the Ann Arbor and Jackson YMCAs, our lab is currently investigating the effectiveness of a community-based assisted exercise (cycling) program for individuals with PD. Participants regularly attend a high-intensity spinning class at the YMCA. We have been periodically monitoring individuals willing to participate in the research study to measure potential changes in cognitive and motor symptoms of PD.

This work is in collaboration with Drs. Kelvin Chou, Vikas Kotagal, Parag Patil, William Gehring, and Ned Kirsch (University of Michigan) and is supported by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. 

Decision Making in Parkinson’s Disease

For a small subset of PD patients, dopamine agonists can lead to impulsive-compulsive behaviors such as gambling, binge eating, hypersexuality, or compulsive shopping. We are interested in whether PD patients who have experienced impulsive-compulsive behaviors engage different brain networks during decision making. In this study, participants respond to a computer task that assesses how much information they gather before making a decision. This task is performed in an MRI scanner, allowing us to “see the brain at work” while participants are making decisions. The goal of this study is to gain insight into the cognitive differences between PD patients with and without impulsive-compulsive behaviors. 

This work is performed in collaboration with Drs. Kelvin Chou (University of Michigan) and Bruno Averbeck (National Institutes of Health) and supported by the National Institutes of Health. 

Parkinson’s Disease