13 November 2011

Power of the Mind: Therapy for Parkinson's Disease

Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a new technique for patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

Patients learned to regulate brain activity by just thinking of it. Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Prof David Linden from Cardiff University, who led the research, described the process as "real-time neural feedback".

It's almost like a Jedi Mind Trick.

It should be noted that this is not a cure for Parkinson's disease. Linden stresses that the technique improved function that could lead to a better quality of life. At this time, Parkinson's is still incurable. Although, scientists are looking into human embryonic stem cell research for a cure for Parkinson's Disease and other degenerative diseases.

Actually, what happens is that the patients with early stages of Parkinson's disease, learned to control areas of the brain associated with movement by the power of thought. They were placed in a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner and were asked to do simple exercises like squeezing a hand. The subjects were then shown in real time, the level of activity in the brain as recorded by the MRI.

Afterwards, they were asked to imagine complex movements in order to activate the brain centers which saw a corresponding reading on the instruments. This procedure trained the patients to activate these localized brain centers to increase and decrease the level of activity at will; just by thinking of it.

Video: Panelists debate clinical trials and its gains and pitfalls through a Parkinson's Disease case

As the abstract states,"Self-regulation of brain activity in humans based on real-time feedback of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) signal is emerging as a potentially powerful, new technique. Here, we assessed whether patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) are able to alter local brain activity to improve motor function. Five patients learned to increase activity in the supplementary motor complex over two fMRI sessions using motor imagery. They attained as much activation in this target brain region as during a localizer procedure with overt movements. Concomitantly, they showed an improvement in motor speed (finger tapping) and clinical ratings of motor symptoms (37% improvement of the motor scale of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale). Activation during neurofeedback was also observed in other cortical motor areas and the basal ganglia, including the subthalamic nucleus and globus pallidus, which are connected to the supplementary motor area (SMA) and crucial nodes in the pathophysiology of PD..

An evaluation of the clinical trials show that movement of patients trained in this technique improved by 30%.

Here's a video about Parkinson's Disease: Progress and Promise in Stem Cell Research