Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and speech. Shaking is probably the most known symptom, and a person with Parkinson’s is unable to control tremors in their limbs. Recently, Danish researches have made some interesting discoveries regarding Parkinson’s disease.
Since the disease affects the brain it has seemed reasonable to assume the disease also begins in the brain, and the working theory has been that a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine causes the trademark shaking. This turns out to be backwards.
The disease does kill dopamine cells, but new research shows this is connected with a late stage of the disease and that symptoms are visible long before the dopamine levels fall. This might not seem to have a major practical impact, but it disproves the theory that a lack of dopamine causes Parkinson’s. The lack of dopamine may cause some of the symptoms, but it is also a symptom in itself.
A Danish study also shows that Parkinson’s affects outer parts of the brain in an earlier stage than previously assumed, paralyzing the person’s reward system.
Many Parkinson’s patients develop problems with addictions, excessive shopping, and binge eating, because moderate levels of an activity no longer gives a sense of joy. This may explain why Parkinson’s patients often suffer depression and apathy; the brain is no longer able to trigger positive feelings when eating a good meal, laughing, winning at a card game, or similar. In the long run, this study may help personalize treatments and give a higher quality of life.
Another Danish research team has made a connection between the abdominal area and Parkinson’s disease, and their findings suggest the problems might start in the stomach area and travel to the brain on the vagus nerve. Parkinson’s patients have fewer nerve connections in the stomach than healthy persons, and the disease may very well kill these nerve connections as well as brain cells. Research continues, and these findings might help scientists discover what triggers the disease, and ascertain how to slow it down.