Using advanced computer modulations, brain researchers from the University of Copenhagen (KU) have uncovered new knowledge about the complex processes that cause Parkinson’s disease.
The research results – just published in the Journal of Neuroscience – show that it is not a lack of the hormone and neurotransmitter dopamine that causes the tremors and motor impairment, which are both typical symptom of the illness and cause sufferers to shake uncontrollably.
“We can now use advanced computer simulations to challenge the existing paradigm and put forward a different theory about what actually takes place in the brain when the dopamine cells gradually die,” Jakob Kisbye Dreyer, a postdoc researcher at the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at KU, said in a press release.
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain that influences physical and psychological functions – such as the control of movement, learning and memory. Dopamine cells regulate the level of the substance.
Could lead to earlier diagnoses
Scanning the brain of a patient suffering from Parkinson’s reveals there is no sign of a lack of dopamine – even at a relatively late stage of the illness – despite dopamine cell death.
“The inability to establish a lack of dopamine has been a thorn in the side of researchers for many years,” Dreyer said.
“On the one hand, the symptoms indicate that the stop signal is over-activated, and patients are treated accordingly with a fair degree of success. On the other hand, data proves that they are not lacking dopamine.”
The researchers' calculations indicated that Parkinson symptoms can arise long before the neurotransmitter levels begin to decline, and that the new findings could pave the way for earlier diagnoses of the harrowing disease.