Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease affects patients in a variety of ways, commonly causing problems with their movement, thinking, and behaviour, such as mood and sleep. There are currently more than 60,000 Australians affected by the disease with an annual cost of over $8 billion per annum.

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Parkinson's disease research

To better understand the progression of Parkinson’s disease and the factors that impact on quality of life, the Parkinson’s Disease Program researchers, led by Associate Professor Simon Lewis, have assessed more than 700 people as part of a long-term study looking at the physical, cognitive, mood and behavioural characteristics of people with Parkinson’s.

The study is teamed with a Brain Donor Program where participants can choose to donate their brain to research so that for the first time, researchers can analyse clinical information with biological samples, to get a complete picture of Parkinson’s disease and make significant progress towards the development of interventions to prevent the disease.

Cognitive training

There are no tablets or clinical interventions to cure dementia in Parkinson’s disease but where no other program or drug has succeeded, in 2012 researchers in the Parkinson’s Disease Research Program have found evidence that cognitive training improves patients’ memory and that the sooner you start the greater the effects.

Freezing of Gait (FOG)

Freezing of Gait occurs when patients are unable to move their feet when trying to walk. It affects half of all people who have Parkinson’s disease, is not responsive to treatment, and is a common factor leading to nursing home placement. The mechanisms underlying Freezing of Gait (FOG) are not well understood and current treatments are often ineffective in controlling this symptom. The Parkinson’s Disease Research team have been awarded funding from the Michael J Fox Foundation to identify a treatment for FOG that does not involve pharmacological or surgical intervention, based on cognitive training and education.

The team has already developed a way to predict an episode of FOG within 8 seconds and are developing a device that when worn can alert the patient of a freezing event before it happens.

Understanding visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease

Another symptom that often leads to nursing home placements and is a major cause of distress in people with Parkinson’s disease is visual hallucinations. Our researchers in the Parkinson’s Disease Program have proposed a novel hypothesis explaining this symptom and have developed a novel approach, called the bistable percept paradigm (BPP) to objectively evaluate it. The BPP consists of a series of "single" and "hidden" monochromatic images that subjects are required to study until they are satisfied that they have recognised everything that the image may represent. In the study, those people who experienced visual hallucinations had greater difficulty in accurately performing the task. In addition, the team were able to relate this poor performance to key changes in the brain using Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.

Participate in research

Cognitive Training in Parkinson’s disease

This study is looking for patients with Parkinson's disease who feel that they are having problems with their memory. Find out more...

Freezing of Gait in Parkinson's Disease

This study is looking for both patients who do and do not experience freezing, as well as healthy people who do not have Parkinson's disease. Find out more...

NSW Movement Disorder Brain Donor Program

The NSW Movement Disorder Brain Donor Program is for patients with Parkinson's disease or a parkinsonian condition who are willing to participate in clinical research assessments. Find out more...

Sleep-wake Disturbances in Parkinson's Disease

This study is looking for patients with all stages of Parkinson's disease. The study involves spending 3 evenings over the space of a couple of weeks in the Brain and Mind Research Centre sleep laboratory. Find out more...

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