Challenges With Assessing Stages of Parkinson Disease and the Lack of Standardized Biomarkers: Jay Alberts, PhD


The Edward F. and Barbara A. Bell Endowed Chair at Cleveland Clinic discussed the complexities with identifying viable biomarkers for Parkinson disease, as well as interventions geared toward specific regions of the brain. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"In general, it’s been a mixed bag in terms of looking for blood biomarkers and other imaging biomarkers. The challenge with many of these is they’re expensive, and their integration into routine clinical care is hard to imagine, at this moment."

Biomarkers serve several purposes for Parkinson disease (PD) treatment, by helping distinguish the disease from other neurodegenerative disorders, monitor progression, and give indications of treatment response to therapeutics. Another main use of biomarkers is to identify underlying prodromal changes in an individual before symptoms arise. There are several main types of biomarkers, including clinical, imaging, biochemical, and genetic, all of which provide varying benefits and insights.

Understanding these prodromal changes was the main theme of research evaluating a virtual reality (VR) shopping platform that was conducted by Jay Alberts, PhD, and colleagues at Cleveland Clinic. Instead of observing the typical, sometimes intrusive, biomarkers, the study looked at performance of instrumental activities of daily living to see whether changes could indicate prodromal signs or symptoms of PD. The platform consisted of basic and complex shopping experiences, with additional scenarios that increase the cognitive and motor demands of the task to better represent the continuum of activities associated with real-world shopping.

Alberts, the Edward F. and Barbara A. Bell Endowed Chair at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, recently sat down with NeurologyLive® to discuss the issues the PD community has with identifying successful, widely acceptable biomarkers for the disease. He also provided insight on the possibility of interventions such as the VR platform to tap into specific regions of the brain that may show abnormal signs over time.

1. Alberts JL, McGrath M, Koop M, et al. The immersive Cleveland Clinic Virtual Reality Shopping Platform for the assessment of instrumental activities of daily living. J Vis Exp. 2022;185. doi:10.3791/63978
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