Effects of Parkinson’s Disease on the Brain
Parkinson’s disease destroys nerve cells in the brain (neurons) found in the substantia nigra, a part of the basal ganglia. These neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages in your brain. Dopamine plays a critical role in many functions of the body, including movement control and coordination. Parkinson’s disease symptoms, such as loss of motor control, tend to get worse over time as more and more dopamine producing neurons are damaged or die.
The Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next. Symptoms vary in severity as well. Some are relatively mild, whereas others can be devastating. Classic Parkinsonian symptoms related to movement control include:
- Tremors (particularly in the hands and fingers)
- Slow movement (called bradykinesia)
- Rigidity or freezing
- Difficulty walking
- Balance control problems
Parkinson’s disease can also cause cognitive problems, as well as difficulties with emotional control, because the basal ganglia are also responsible for coordination of cognitive and emotional processing. Symptoms such as memory loss, dementia, and severe depression can be caused by damage to the basal ganglia in advanced stages of the disease. Parkinson’s sufferers can also experience other progressive symptoms such as severe fatigue, gastrointestinal distress (constipation) and speech issues.
Balance Assessments and Exercises
One essential test we use with Parkinson’s clients is dynamic posturography – a computerized assessment of balance and postural stability. Posture problems are very common in those with Parkinson’s disease, including camptocormia, a forward flexion of the head, shoulders, and spine. Dynamic posturography helps us determine the severity of a client’s balance issues and their fall risk. This assessment guides us to the balance exercises that will be most effective for the client’s needs, including vestibular, gait, and eye movement training.
Balance and posture problems can create very dangerous situations for those with Parkinson’s. Many individuals with PD have a posterior center of pressure (CoP), or a tendency to fall backwards. Falls to the rear are often more devastating than falls forward because you cannot catch yourself. The risk of injury is increased for those with Parkinson’s disease because of diminished movement planning skills and delayed reaction times. For this reason, appropriate assessment and intervention to improve posturing and CoP is critical for those with these Parkinson’s symptoms.
Brain Training for Parkinsonian Symptoms
At APEX Brain Centers we offer hope and support to clients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Through detailed assessments and courses of targeted Brain Training exercises, we aim to help our clients improve their brain function, physical function, and quality of life.
We tailor each course of Brain Training to the unique needs of each client. Parkinson tremor treatment may include complex motor activities, specialized gait training, and various types of electrical stimulation specific for the underlying neurological deficits.
The Interactive Metronome is another valuable assessment and training tool that we often use to help those with Parkinson’s disease. This computer-based exercise helps clients improve sequencing and planning of motor activities within the brain. In the case of an individual with Parkinson’s, improving neural timing supports more fluid movement and less freezing.
Nutritional and Metabolic Support
We also offer nutritional counseling and intervention for our clients with Parkinson’s disease. Nutritional supplementation with PD can be quite complicated, although in many cases quite successful. Due to gastrointestinal distress experienced by many with PD, protein intake often needs to be limited and various food sensitivities may develop. Medical food interventions, as well as intermittent fasting techniques, have proven quite effective for management in these sensitive cases.
Antioxidant therapies, specifically those that boost glutathione production, are the most widely studied at this point in time and have been incredibly helpful for countless individuals in managing their Parkinson’s symptoms and slowing the rate of decline.
Contact APEX to Learn More
If you or a loved one has been struggling with the physical, emotional, and cognitive problems associated with Parkinson’s disease, talk to us about how we can offer support. Contact our admissions department to learn more or call us at 828.708.5274.