Mixed Messages: How Parkinson’s Affects the Brain
The brain is a complex, fragile world made up of millions of tiny nerve cells, which interact by firing electrical impulses. Neurotransmitters hold the key to the brain’s operation. These chemicals relay signals to keep the body breathing, moving, speaking and learning.
In people with Parkinson’s disease, brain cells in a particular brain area degenerate and reduce their production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The result: Messages that control movement get lost, interrupted or delayed. So for a person with Parkinson’s, walking down a narrow airplane aisle may be extremely problematic; the subconscious message to walk straight may never find its way to the part of the brain that controls balance, causing the person to bump into seats uncontrollably.
Levodopa — a mainstay in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease — converts into dopamine in the brain, allowing such messages to be successfully transmitted so that Parkinson’s symptoms, such as loss of balance, can be improved. With progression of the disease, however, levodopa may not be sufficient to treat the symptoms smoothly throughout the day, or may be associated with side effects that further reduce the benefits.
Neurological Care at Rush
The neuroscience program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, is considered among the nation’s best. From using deep brain stimulation to eliminate the tremors of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders to applying minimally invasive approaches to treating the spine and brain, experts at Rush are helping to revolutionize care for patients at Rush and around the world.
At Rush, our team is on the leading edge of advances in medicine, whether it’s a new minimally invasive technique or a novel drug. Because Rush is an academic medical center, our patients benefit from all of the latest innovations, including some that are unavailable anywhere else in the world.
For more information about care for neurological conditions visit the Neurological Care home page.
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