April is Parkinson’s Month – A great time to get the facts about Parkinson’s
Did you know that:
- Approximately 100, 000 Canadians have Parkinson’s disease.
- Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease generally appear around the age of 60, although they can also occur in younger people.
- Parkinson’s disease was first described in 1817 by Dr. James Parkinson, a British physician, after whom the disease was named.
Parkinson’s is a disease that attacks certain nerve cells in the brain which play a role in movement. Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical called dopamine. Dopamine signals the smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement. It is estimated that by the time the diagnosis is made, approximately 80% of dopamine-producing cells have already stopped functioning. Symptoms of the disease include tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness or rigidity and loss of balance.
There is as yet, no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. A number of drugs and clinical treatments have been developed which can help to control or minimize the symptoms of this disabling and debilitating disease. Famous personalities suffering from Parkinson’s are Michael J Fox and Muhammad Ali.
Parkinson’s Treatment at the MNI: A Long Tradition
The Parkinson’s clinic at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) serves patients with a variety of movement diseases, but 75 % of them are people with Parkinson’s disease. The Clinic has been expanding and improving its services since 2001 with the help of funding from the Parkinson Society Canada, which includes a special program that addresses the needs of the young onset, newly diagnosed population. The MNI has recently been designated a National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) Center of Excellence.
A variety of professionals are required to help manage this complex disease which has no definitive test to diagnose it, nor treatments to control it. The Parkinson’s Clinic at the MNI, therefore brings together a multidisciplinary team of Neurologists, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech therapists and Social Workers. Parkinson’s patients also participate in on-going clinical studies.
Parkinson’s Research at the MNI:
The MNI conducts cutting-edge fundamental Parkinson’s research and clinical trials. For example:
Dr. Edward Fon is a neurologist and the Director of the McGill Parkinson Program and NPF Center of Excellence in PD. He studies the molecular mechanisms that play a role in the degeneration of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s. Work in his laboratory provides important clues about how and why dopamine nerve cells die in Parkinson’s disease and could lead to innovative new therapeutic strategies.
Dr. Lesley Fellows, a neurologist, uses cognitive neuroscience to study complex human behaviour. On-going studies examine how impulsivity, learning, and attention are affected in Parkinson's disease, and aim to understand whether such changes are due to the disease itself, or to the medications used to treat the disease.
Dr. Alain Dagher, a neurologist, uses functional brain imaging to understand how Parkinson’s disease affects thinking and emotion. The goal of this research is to improve our treatment of cognitive and mood problems, which are increasingly recognized as major causes of reduced quality of life in Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Louis Collins, an imaging scientist, uses computerized image processing techniques to automatically identify structures within the human brain. These techniques are essential in image-guided neurosurgical treatments for Parkinson's disease, providing surgeons with computerized tools to assist in effective planning and execution of minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures. This aids in minimizing trauma to the patient and allowing resection of the smallest amount of brain tissue necessary for effective therapeutic treatment.
Dr. Abbas Sadikot, a neurosurgeon, works with colleagues to design new techniques for image-guided neurosurgery. Dr. Sadikot's research interest lies in determining how the developing brain forms complex networks, information that can be used to develop new therapies for repairing the damaged nervous system. He is particularly interested in cell and growth-factor replacement strategies. His work has implications for Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Anne-Louise Lafontaine, neurologist and Director of the Movement Disorders Clinic, is currently implementing 2 clinical trials. Dr. Lafontaine is investigating: Dementia in Parkinson’s disease; as well as testing the benefits of Stalevo versus Sinemet in the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Lafontaine is a collaborator in a number of functional imaging studies that will follow patients long-term.
The MNI is a McGill University research and teaching institute, dedicated to the study of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, the MNI is one of the world's largest institutes of its kind. MNI researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The MNI, with its clinical partner, the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), part of the McGill University Health Centre, continues to integrate research, patient care and training, and is recognized as one of the premier neuroscience centres in the world. At the MNI, we believe in investing in the faculty, staff and students who conduct outstanding research, provide advanced, compassionate care of patients and who pave the way for the next generation of medical advances. Highly talented, motivated people are the engine that drives research - the key to progress in medical care. A new building, the North Wing Expansion, is currently under construction and will house state-of-the-art brain imaging facilities. Once the construction is completed and the new building is fully equipped, the scientific community focused on brain imaging research at the MNI will be without equivalent anywhere in the world.