BALTIMORE (Ivanhoe Newswire) ---Each year, about 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Tremors and poor balance often plague these patients, but there’s another, lesser-known problem that a new study aims to help.
Meet Stan, Vanessa and Joe. All have Parkinson’s, a disease that causes tremors and movement problems. But many don’t know it also affects memory in about 30-percent of patients.
"The type of memory affected in Parkinson’s disease is very different than in Alzheimer’s disease," Dr. Karen Anderson, M.D., an Associate professor of clinical psychiatry and neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine told Ivanhoe.
Parkinson’s patients have trouble multi-tasking and using information they’ve learned. That’s where treadmills and computers come in. Researchers are studying whether three sessions a week of exercise and brain games will help improve memory in Parkinson’s patients. The idea is to boost a chemical in the brain known as BDNF.
"We’re hoping through exercise to stimulate production of BDNF, which may cause brain cells to function better or even start to renew themselves," Dr. Anderson said.
Joe has been walking for two weeks. A special harness holds him in place, so he doesn’t fall while trained exercise physiologists record his progress. Vanessa McLean plays the memory games.
"You have to be really quick to get the birds and the flowers together," Vanessa said.
Stan Markowitz does both exercise and brain games. He’s hoping the combination will help his worsening memory.
"I’ll start a sentence, and there’s a word that I need, and I can’t figure it out," Stan explained.
If it works, it will be a simple way to make living with this complicated disease a little easier. The patients are divided into three groups: those who only exercise those who only use the computer games only and those who do both.
Researchers conduct memory assessments at the beginning of the study and three months after the study. They are still enrolling patients in this four-year trial. For more information on the study go to http://www.umm.edu/parkinsons/ct_parkinsons.htm
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University Of Maryland medical Center