Parkinson Disease in the News

June 23, 2015

Several new findings in the field of Parkinson’s disease (PD) research could impact treatment as well as diagnosis. A recent study focusing on stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS), a brain stimulation method, found that it improved PD-related balance problems. The treatment was more effective when given with L-Dopa. The Feldenkrais method, which improves neuromuscular activity, flexibility, and coordination, recently was also found to improve depression symptoms and quality of life in PD. Measurement of free water levels via diffusion imaging may be a non-invasive way to assess PD progression, specifically by assessing the progressive degeneration of the substantia nigra.

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Balance in PD Improves with Brain Stimulation

• Many motor problems occur in PD, including difficulty with balance, which can reduce quality of life.

• A recent study examined stochastic vestibular stimulation (SVS), either by itself or with L-Dopa, for PD-related balance problems in 10 patients who received either sham stimulation or SVS.

• SVS is a non-invasive method of stimulating the vestibular system.

• SVS helped improve balance by improving corrective postural responses, and was more effective when given with L-Dopa.

Source: Samoudi G, et al. Effects of stochastic vestibular galvanic stimulation and LDOPA on balance and motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease. Brain Stimulation. 2015;8(3):474-480.

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Feldenkrais Method Boosts Quality of Life in PD

• PD affects movement, but can also greatly reduce quality of life and cause or exacerbate depression.

• The Feldenkrais method was developed to improve body and mental well-being by promoting concentration on neuromuscular activity with exercises that increase range of motion, as well as develop flexibility and coordination.

• A controlled, blinded, randomized clinical trial consisting of 30 patients (from ages 50-70) with PD examined the use of this method.

• 50 sessions of the method significantly improved depression (P=0.005) and quality of life (P=0.004) scores.

Source: Teixeira-Machado L, et al. Feldenkrais method-based exercise improves quality of life in individuals with Parkinson's disease: a controlled, randomized clinical trial. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21(1):8-14.

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New Technique Can Measure PD Progression in Brain

• In PD the substantia nigra degenerates. Non-invasive methods for measuring this degeneration could aid in the clinical treatment and understanding of PD.

• Researchers have used diffusion imaging of free water levels to detect degeneration in the substania nigra in PD.

• Free water levels were increased in people with PD compared to controls (P=0.003). Levels further increased in the PD group (P=0.006) after a year and predicted changes in bradykinesia and cognitive status.

• Measurement of free water levels via diffusion imaging may be a non-invasive way to assess PD progression.

Source: Ofori E, et al. Longitudinal changes in free-water within the substantia nigra of Parkinson’s disease. Brain. Published online 16 May 2015.

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Take-home Points

• SVS, a brain stimulation technique, may improve balance in PD.

• The Feldenkrais method of exercise can reduce depression and improve quality of life in people with PD.

• Diffusion imaging of free water levels may be used to assess PD progression and the degeneration of the substantia nigra.