Yesterday marked ‘Pause for Parkinson’s’ day. A day to recognize and show loving kindness and compassion to ones who suffer this debilitating neurodegenerative disease.
When we think of Parkinson’s disease (PD) , Michael J Fox who sadly was diagnosed in 1991 at the tender age of 30 usually comes to mind. To be diagnosed at the age of 30 is very rare, with most Parkinsonian disorders becoming of age within 1% of individuals older than 60 (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1831191-overview).
Parkinsonian is categorized into two components Degenerative and non-degenerative (Dickson, 2012). Degenerative speaks for itself, and I will touch on the neuropathogenesis (causes) to appreciate the complexities and again to show an abundance of loving kindness and compassion that patients go through on a daily basis.
I have used the term ‘parkinsonian’ for the reason that there is a combination of disorders associated with PD. And each PD patient will differ with their symptoms. BUT, the two main pathological issues seen in PD is the protein Alpha Synuclein and destruction of the Nigrostriatal pathway. Now please don’t let me scare you with the above (insert scary emoji here) I will simplify the two.
Alpha Synuclein is a membrane bound protein found in the brain which is involved in signalling chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). This is normal, and needed. But the complexity of the human organism. Normally functioning proteins such as alpha synuclein in the PD patient goes through a complex aggregation pathway (I fast forwarded things here) resulting in Lewy bodies, which are a neurotoxic protein. Neurotoxic proteins like lewy bodies develop inside nerve cells and subsequently kill off the dopaminergic signalling which leads us into the Nigrostriatal pathway.
The nigrostriatal pathway involves the projection of the neurotransmitter dopamine that we are all familiar with. The dopaminergic neurons are involved in areas (pathways) that involve movement. The main area that looses it’s vital dopaminergic neurons is the Substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is rich in dopamine and a lot of the motor symptoms you see in PD patients such rigidity and bradykinesia are a result of the substantia nigra loosing it’s vital dopamine.
So that wasn’t all to fun was it? Let’s talk about what is promising. The brain’s way of healing by Norman Doidge M.D. Is a wonderful book that brings light into the growing evidence that the brain is ‘plastic’ or neuroplasticity. Norman’s book discusses a patient who suffers from PD, who was debunked by neurologist’s because his symptoms improved by conscious walking or neuroplastic remodeling. By consciously paying attention to gait and how plastic the brain is. The patients symptoms improved and continued to improve as long as physical activity was maintained. WELL! what do you know? physical activity is neuroprotective. Who would have thought…
Well that was a eyeful.
I hope you all learn’t something new about PD. And have some more loving kindness towards PD sufferers. This was simplified for many complex reasons so happy to give out more information.
Author: James Smith