World Parkinson's Day

12/Apr/2021     Health

World Parkinson's Day is celebrated on April 11 to create awareness about the long-term degenerative disorder. It is estimated that about four people per 1 000 people in Australia have Parkinson’s disease.

The incidence is increasing to one in 100 over the age of 60, in Australia, there are about 80 000 people living with Parkinson’s Disease with one in five of these people being diagnosed before the age of 50.

Parkinson’s Disease can potentially affect multiple neurotransmitter systems in the brain in addition to the more widely recognised dopamine transmitter systems located within the basal ganglia which are involved in the fine control of movement.

Mater Centre for Neurosciences Neurologist Dr Daniel Schweitzer said diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease can be challenging for clinicians because there is no gold standard test thus making a diagnosis complicated.

“Although people commonly think of the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease including a tremor, bradykinesia, the disease itself can have a range of clinical manifestations,” Dr Schweitzer said.

“In fact, some of the non-motor symptoms, which traditionally have been underappreciated by clinicians, have a greater impact on quality of life than the more commonly recognised motor symptoms.

“Some of the non-motor symptoms include sleep disturbance, mood disorders, anxiety and pain. Many patients experience changes in the sleep pattern. Although we have traditionally managed both motor and non-motor symptoms with pharmacological based therapies, we are increasingly recognising the role of non-pharmacological interventions.”

Sleep scientists at Mater have found many patients with Parkinson’s Disease experience changes in sleep patterns as well as parasomnias including restless leg syndrome, REM sleep disorders, nightmares and periodic limb movements.

Dr Schweitzer and his colleague Senior Specialist Respiratory Physician Associate Professor Lucy Burr are collaborating in a study on the effects of Parkinson’s Disease on the brain with Associate Professor Beatrix Feigl, Professor Andrew J Zele and Professor Graham Kerr from Queensland University of Technology and Professor Simon Lewis from the University of Sydney.

“We have demonstrated that Parkinson’s Disease can lead to changes in the light transmitting photoreceptors in the eyes and in particular, melanopsin cells that are the main pathway to signal light to the brain for promoting sleep,” A/Prof Beatrix Feigl said.

“Our team has shown that some of these changes in sleep patterns and sleep behaviour are mediated by changes in melanopsin function.

“Rather than directly targeting the usual neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, the research led by QUT  and funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation (MJFOX) and Shake it up Australia developed a new and novel non-pharmacological intervention, based on a lighting technology which aims to improve sleep disturbance and potentially movement in PD.”

Participants are currently being recruited for this three-year, randomized double-blind clinical trial at QUT from various sites including the Mater Neurology Clinics. The Mater Respiratory and Sleep Department are involved in the interpretation and analysis of sleep studies.

The partnership represents a step forward in establishing multidisciplinary and translational research studies in the areas of Parkinson’s disease which have the potential to improve patient care.

Additional Information

To find out more about the clinical trial please contact

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