Parkinson’s Disease

There’s an app for that! How mobile devices can help memory and planning

Over the last few years we have had a surge in the availability and affordability of “apps” or programs that can run on your phone, tablet or other mobile device. Many apps promise to make life easier and more convenient. It is sometimes difficult to know if the app stands up to those claims, or whether it would just be easier to set an alarm by the bed, look at a paper calendar on the … Read More

Vitamin D, mood and memory in persons with Parkinson’s disease

Vitamin D has become a hot topic in recent years. For many years, vitamin D has been known to play a role in bone health. More recent research suggests it may have a much broader role in multiple body systems. In regard to the brain, we know that there are receptors for vitamin D in most parts of the human brain. In persons without Parkinson’s disease, some research suggests vitamin D may be related to … Read More

Lewy body dementia — a less-known cause of cognitive problems

Not all people with cognitive problems have Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s is the most common reason for memory problems as people get older, there are other types of dementia. Lewy body dementia or Lewy body disease is a much less common cause of cognitive problems and is seen in about seven in a thousand people over the age of 65. People with LBD tend to have trouble with visual spatial function and executive function. Executive … Read More

‘Neuroprotection’: an elusive goal in fighting brain diseases

About 15 years ago, I wrote an article about treating Alzheimer’s disease that divided treatments into two categories: “symptomatic” and “neuroprotectant.” There were real options in the former category. But the “neuroprotectant” idea was more theoretical — more of a “coming attractions” approach — citing the studies that were underway to identify treatments that would actually save brain cells, protecting those neurons from further harm, and actually slowing or arresting the disease process. Sadly, despite … Read More

Scientists excited by new ‘see-through brain’

I am a neuroscientist who uses advanced microscopy techniques to understand the basic mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease. Throughout my career, I have always been interested in imaging and microscopy as a way to answer essential biological questions.  That’s why I (along with many other neuroscientists) am so excited about a new technique that creates fully intact, optically clear brains, allowing scientists to study how brain cells connect and communicate with each other in a completely … Read More

Smarter brain ‘glue’ — glia cells take the spotlight

Many neuroscientists will tell you that nerve cells in the brain (called neurons) are the most important part of the nervous system. They are, after all, the primary cells of the nervous system, responsible for conducting electrical currents to encode and process our senses, thoughts, memories and emotions. But there is a growing contingent of neuroscientists who study other brain cells called glia, named for the Greek word for glue. For much of the last … Read More

Brain imaging in Parkinson’s disease

Traditional brain imaging with CT and MRI scans do not show changes in the brain when someone has Parkinson’s disease and are generally not helpful in diagnosis.  A new kind of brain scan, called a DaT scan, does show changes in persons with Parkinson’s disease and may someday become an important tool in diagnosing Parkinson’s. The dopamine transporter, or DaT, scan uses a chemical that labels the dopamine transporter in the area of the brain … Read More

Tremors and dyskinesias in Parkinson’s disease

Tremor is the most common movement seen in persons with Parkinson’s disease. But other movements can also be seen. A resting tremor, which is found in about 80 percent of persons with Parkinson’s disease, is a rhythmic movement that most often starts in one hand. It generally is most prominent when the hand is resting and relaxed. Over time it often travels to the opposite hand or to the leg on the same side of … Read More

Depression common, but often unrecognized, in Parkinson’s

Feeling blue? It may be more than just the Portland winter weather getting you down if you have Parkinson’s disease. About one-third of people with Parkinson’s disease suffer from clinical depression at any point in time and two-thirds will experience a depressive episode at some point during the course of the disease. The symptoms of depression include feeling worried, sad, tearful, tired, guilty, irritable, or unloved. People can lose interest in activities, have changes in … Read More

Even with the rain, Parkinson’s patients can find ways to exercise

Numerous clinical studies over the past several years have shown the benefits of exercise for persons with Parkinson’s disease.  Studies have shown that exercise can improve balance and quality of life. Animal studies suggest exercise might even slow the progression of the disease. All of this means many people with Parkinson’s disease want to exercise as often as possible. As winter is now heavily upon us, the days have shortened and the rains have come. … Read More

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