How Can Non-Parkinson’s Research Help People with Parkinson’s?

Release date: 2/6/2012

The National Parkinson Foundation sponsored a meeting of leading biologists and neurologists to discuss how their work could benefit patients with Parkinson’s.  Led by NPF scientific advisor Ariel Deutch, scientists from around the country discussed promising innovations and research in neuroscience that could help people with PD. Here are a few of the topics of interest:

There are a lot of causes of depression; PD can make people depressed or people with PD can be depressed because they have PD.  Either way, we should do everything possible to treat it. Depression is very dangerous for people with PD. It often makes people less active, which can make PD worse. Treating depression in people with PD can be challenging, and we anticipate researchers taking heed and focusing more of their efforts to treating PD depression.

  • Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you feel depressed. NPF’s depression resources can help you figure out if you need help.  Make sure that you educate other people in your family about depression, so that you can help them and they can help you.
  • Exercise! Physical activity has been shown to benefit depression, how well you think, and general health.  Talk to your doctor about safe ways to exercise.


Mental confusion can result from PD or some of its medications. This confusion, called psychosis, comes from information overload. Sometimes too much information is coming into your brain for your brain to make sense of it.  This can result in confusion and sometimes your brain makes up a story to tie the information together, but the story isn’t really what is happening.  Researchers who study this don’t often focus on PD, they turned their attention to it.

Most of us think about dopamine when we think about PD.  However, dopamine is just one part of Parkinson’s.  Other brain chemicals are also affected, and these can be important later in the disease.  Psychosis can result from problems with these other brain chemicals, and so working on psychosis can help treat issues that occur in the mid-stage and later in PD.

  • Psychosis can result from basic chemical and physical changes that occur in the brain or can be caused by PD medications. Talk to your doctor if you think you or a loved one is experiencing signs of psychosis.

The “Druggable Genome”

New technology is opening new doors.  One new technology is called “the druggable genome.”  In this, researchers look at everything in human DNA that could respond to drugs and then figure out how what we want to do works with what we can do.  Pharmaceuticals companies are working hard to solve these problems, and PD is an important target for them!

  • Stay hopeful!  New developments are helping us understand every aspect of PD.  With the help of people like you, NPF is leading the way in getting you the therapies you need and addressing the needs of our community.  Join with us!