President Obama’s announcement last week about a $100 million brain-mapping project offers hope for furthering the understanding of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of brain cells. This chronic, progressive neurological disorder causes such symptoms as slow movements, stiffness, lessened ability to make small movements (like tying shoelaces, writing or typing), tremors, impaired balance and speech, plus cognitive impairment in more advanced stages.
There is no definitive known cause or cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are effective treatments for its physical symptoms, including deep-brain stimulation (DBS) and medication. Furthermore, several new treatments under review with the FDA also offer hope:
- Rytary, a new controlled-release formulation of levodopa;
- Duodopa, a gel formulation of levodopa delivered through a feeding tube (already used in Europe); and
- Apomorphine, a subcutaneous infusion of a substance that activates dopamine receptors (also available in Europe).
Additionally, Parkinson’s disease patients can help to reduce their symptoms with physical, occupational and speech therapy plus simple, healthy lifestyle choices like good nutrition and regular exercise.