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Parkinson's is Often Linked with Depression, But There’s Good News

Parkinson's is Often Linked with Depression, But There’s Good News


Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by tremors and difficulty walking and talking. It is progressive, and the symptoms may worsen over time to the point that the individual may freeze on the spot and fall, unable to walk. Many people with Parkinson's end up being confined to their homes to avoid such occurrences in public.


The Relationship Between Parkinson's and Depression

Notably, about 50% of people with Parkinson's disease also experience depression. It's all about chemical changes in the brain.

In short, most people who live with a chronic, long-term disease usually fall into depression the more they get hopeless about their condition. Their will to live gradually wanes.

But the link between depression and Parkinson's is relatively noteworthy because Parkinson's disease may directly cause depression. Parkinson's disease affects the brain, causing chemical changes that result in mood disorders like depression. And quite sadly, depression can worsen Parkinson's symptoms.

However, there's good news for people with Parkinson's!


Treatment for Parkinson's Can Now Get Much Better

Fortunately, by treating the feelings of depression, your Parkinson's symptoms can consequently improve. You can get help through medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Medication is also typically used to manage Parkinson's disease and alleviate the symptoms, such as tremors.

But there's more. Well-targeted DBS can even help with freezing and difficulty walking.

You see, there are specialized groups of neurons in the brainstem that control movement. Parkinson's results when these neurons die gradually. As time drifts by and more die, the symptoms get worse.

Treatment for Parkinson's natively involves medication, but some surgeons also use Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). With DBS, the surgeon uses a thin metal wire to send electrical pulses to the brain, helping to treat the tremors.

Unfortunately, improving walking and freezing remains a challenge, as these treatment techniques do not optimally improve those areas. 

Thankfully -- and here's the good news -- researchers have discovered that activation of those specialized neurons is what's needed to restore full movement in people with Parkinson's!

The findings would notably help specialists to target Deep Brain Stimulation righty to the spot that influences motor functions.

This, without a doubt, would improve the treatment of motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease.


Targeting Brainstem with DBS is the Right Strategy to Help Parkinson's Patients Walk Again

The researchers conducted the study at the University of Copenhagen using mice as subjects.

It was speculated that freezing of walking in Parkinson's patients could be alleviated. According to researchers who have worked on such studies in the past, what is required is for DBS to stimulate neurons in the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN), located in the brainstem. They believed the PPN sends signals to the brain to facilitate locomotion.

However, results from early findings were highly variable. As small as the PPN is, it's wide enough such that stimulating different areas brought about different results in locomotion.

So the researchers used a technology to target specific cell groups in the PPN. Interestingly, movement in Parkinson's mice-patients improved optimally when the excitatory neurons in the caudal area of the PPN were stimulated with DBS.


The Bottom Line

For many people, the challenges of Parkinson's -- such as difficulty walking and freezing in public -- are enough to cause depression.

The key to preventing freezing and improving movement in Parkinson's Disease is a high level of precision: to target the right area in the PPN.

And this is great news becomes if these symptoms can be improved, it will consequently boost the general mood of the patient.

Addressing depression can help Parkinson's symptoms and vice versa.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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