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Meet Our Researchers

The Parkinson’s Foundation collaborates with the brightest minds in Parkinson’s research through grants and awards. The Foundation has supported more than 400 scientists who work to better understand Parkinson’s.

Every year, the Parkinson’s Foundation funds up to 50 different studies at once, exploring all aspects of the disease, from disease progression and treatments to genetics and the inner workings of the brain. Meet some of the researchers currently conducting Parkinson’s studies that can lead to a breakthrough at any moment:

Hengyi Rao, PhDHengyi Rao, PhD University of Pennsylvania, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, Community Choice Research Award recipient

Using Brain Imaging to Track Fatigue in Parkinson’s Disease

Hengyi Rao, PhD, and his team seek to explain brain function changes underlying PD-related fatigue and explore whether blue light can reduce it and fatigue-related brain dysfunction. The study requires participants to stay in an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) A medical imaging technique that uses magnetic forces to obtain detailed images of the body. MRI is non-invasive and does not use radiation. scanner for up to 100 minutes without head movement. Despite the challenge, Dr. Rao said most participants with PD completed the study because they are dedicated to moving fatigue research forward. Preliminary findings suggest PD fatigue may be associated with altered organization of an interconnected brain network that is normally active when people are at rest and not completing any tasks. Learn more.

Amy Amara, MD, PhDAmy Amara, MD, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Community Choice Research Award recipient

Impact of Exercise on Executive Function and Sleep

Amy Amara, MD, PhD, is evaluating exercise’s impact on people with Parkinson’s and PD-related non-motor cognition and sleep symptoms. Not many effective medication treatments for these symptoms exist. Exercise can improve Parkinson’s motor symptoms, so it could improve non-motor symptoms. Participants are randomly assigned a group: exercise or no exercise. The trial compares changes between the two groups through sleep studies. Dr. Amara has seen significant improvements in sleep efficiency and sleep time for the exercise group participants compared to the no-exercise group. Learn more.

Milton BiagioniMilton Biagioni, MD, NYU Langone Health, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, Community Choice Research Award recipient

At-Home Brain Stimulation for Fatigue and Cognitive Slowing

Milton Biagioni, MD, is studying whether a portable, non-invasive brain stimulation device can alleviate PD-related fatigue and cognitive slowing — symptoms with no proven effective treatments. Using a specially designed transcranial direct current stimulator (tDCS) device and a new method of remote supervision, the therapy is done in the participant’s home through video conferencing. Preliminary findings suggest an improvement in fatigue with 20 sessions of tDCS, but not with 10 sessions. Ongoing work will aid in determining the ability of this intervention to treat cognition. Learn more.

Jing Wang, PhD, University of Minnesota, Parkinson’s Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

Novel Deep Brain Stimulation

Jing Wang was at a critical point in her novel deep brain stimulation study when she received a grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation. “The grant allowed me to continue my work and further explore this Parkinson’s disease treatment,” Jing said. “It is really encouraging to have my work supported by the Parkinson’s Foundation, especially as a post doctorate.”

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