ScienCentral News
environment general science genetics health and medicine space technology January 26, 2003 
home NOVA News Minutes archive login

is a production of
ScienCentral, Inc.
Making Sense of Science

Also of Interest
Building Brain Bridges (video)

Watching Living Brains (video)

Catching Up On Sleep (video)

Killer’s Brain (video)

Stem Cell Shakes (video)

Stress and Socializing (video)

Taste the Difference (video)

ADHD Brain Size (video)

Kid Concussions (video)

Fetal Alcohol Hope (video)

Imaging Antidepressant Accuracy (video)

Smart Nose (video)

Unclogging the Brain (video)

Brain Bounceback (video)

Learning To Forget (video)

NOVA News Minutes
Visit the NOVA News Minutes archive.
ScienCentral News and Nature
Nature genome promo logo
Don’t miss Enter the Genome
our collaboration with Nature.
Best of the Web!
Popular Science Best of the Web 2000
Selected one of Popular Science’s 50 Best of the Web.
Get Email Updates
Write to us and we will send you an email when a new feature appears on the site.
Mixed Signals (video)
October 08, 2002

Can't see the movie above??
download realplayer logo
You can choose to either view it with a RealPlayer by clicking here. Or get the free QuickTime player to view the higher-quality video above.

Interviewee: Mark West, Rutgers University.

Video is 1 min 32 sec long. Please be patient while it loads enough to start playing.

Produced by Sanjanthi Velu

Copyright © ScienCentral, Inc., with additional footage from Medtronic.

Also on ScienCentral News

Cancer Watchdogs (video) - Family pets could serve as cancer watchdogs. (8/2/02)

Race for a Cure: Part 2 - An experimental gene therapy trial for people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease seeks to correct the faulty genes that bring suffering and death to millions of Americans. (2/3/00)

Elsewhere on the web

Latest news on Parkinson's - Medline

Parkinson's Disease Foundation

Rats With Partial Parkinson’s Damage In The Brain Show Complete Functional Recovery After Gene Therapy - U of Florida press release

National Parkinson Foundation

Deep Brain Stimulation For Parkinson's Disease - The Cleveland Clinic

Learn About Neurosurgical Procedures Deep Brain Stimulation

Are current drugs for Parkinson's disease ineffective?

As this ScienCentral news video reports, new research shows that mixed signals in Parkinson's patients' brains means a cure could be farther away than expected.

Brain reorganized

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases affecting older people in the United States. It’s characterized by the loss of a neurotransmitter, called dopamine, caused by the death of dopamine neurons in a portion of the brain known as the basal ganglia.

Mark West, professor of psychology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his team recorded the activity of individual neurons in the basal ganglia of rats, after depleting the dopamine in their brain. They inserted a microelectrode in the rat’s brain and studied the neuron signals to and from different body parts. The results of the study are published in the October issue of the Journal of Comparative Neurology. It was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Public Health Service, and the Charles and Johanne Busch Foundation.

West explains that neurons that send and receive signals to and from the same part of the body normally cluster together. But after dopamine loss, West and his colleagues found that some neurons around the edges of the clusters changed their responsiveness to different body parts. These neurons began to receive input signals from other body parts, but still sent output signals to the original body part.

“And since they maintain their normal output connections, and the input connections have changed, the brain is unable to interpret these signals”, says West. “And this potentially explains why Parkinson’s patients have difficulty with movement, especially movements that require sensory guidance.”

Current treatment is ineffective

The researchers also found that the reorganized connections seemed to be permanent. So while dopamine-boosting drugs like Levo Dopa can raise the amount of dopamine available in the brain, it cannot repair these switched connections.

Annette Nieves at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School works with Parkinson’s patients. She says, “Levo Dopa is not the answer, it’s just a band aid that will treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s like the tremor and the slowness and the shuffling. But it’s not the cure. It will not stop the disease.”

In fact, West says, the permanently changed connections make finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease next to impossible. He calls for more research to find ways to prevent Parkinson’s disease: “That is, prevent the dopamine loss and prevent these changes in the connections in the first place.”

by Sanjanthi Velu

About Search Login Help Webmaster
ScienCentral News is a production of ScienCentral, Inc.
in collaboration with the Center for Science and the Media.
248 West 35th St., 17th Fl., NY, NY 10001 USA (212) 244-9577.
The contents of these WWW sites © ScienCentral, 2000-2002. All rights reserved.
The views expressed in this website are not necessarily those of the NSF.
NOVA News Minutes and NOVA are registered trademarks of WGBH Educational Foundation and are being used under license.