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I have Parkinson's diseases and thought it would be nice to have a place where the contents of updated news is found in one place. That is why I began this blog.

I copy news articles pertaining to research, news and information for Parkinson's disease, Dementia, the Brain, Depression and Parkinson's with Dystonia. I also post about Fundraising for Parkinson's disease and events. I try to be up-to-date as possible.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Do you fight in your sleep? New study warns thrashing about in bed may be an early warning sign of dementia, Parkinson’s

December 30, 2017 by: Rhonda Johansson

(Natural NewsThrashing, laughing, or talking in your sleep can indicate a vulnerability to developing Parkinson’s and dementia later on. Researchers from the Aarhus University state that rapid eye movement sleep behavioral disorder (RBD), which occurs when a person begins to “act out” dreams, may be caused by inflammation in the brain where dopamine is made. This condition can lead to rapid nerve cell death that can eventually cause dementia or Parkinson’s disease. 

The relationship between the two has not been studied until now. Neurologists have always been aware that neurological disorders are largely caused by a lack of dopamine. Similarly, RBD — while a relatively new topic of research — has been known to be prompted by nerve cell death caused by a diminished supply of dopamine. Researchers were curious to see if the two were connected in some way.

In their study, the researchers found that half of the people who were diagnosed with RBD eventually developed Parkinson’s or some other form of neurological disorder within a decade.  

“With this study, we have gained new knowledge about the disease processes in the brain in the early initial stages of the disease development,” explains one of the researchers of the study, Morten Gersel Stokholm. “The idea is for this knowledge to be used to determine which patients with the sleep disorder will later develop Parkinson’s disease.”

To sleep, perchance to dream

The land of Nod is shaped by our perceptions and built on our passions. It is an entirely imaginary place, but one that we visit each night as we dream. Our encounters there should be completely independent from the physical realm but RBD is the tear in that fabric. People who suffer from RBD act out their dreams and physically move limbs in relation to whatever it is they are dreaming. There are cases where people can even engage in violent acts during RBD such as shouting, screaming, hitting, or punching. 

We dream when we enter the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. In typical patients, REM sleep is characterized by temporary muscle paralysis. Brain scans have shown that during this phase, brain activity is similar to when we are awake. The difference, however, is that while our mind is active, our bodies do not move. 

Patients with RBD are unable to temporarily paralyze themselves. This allows them to act out the more dramatic and/or violent dreams during REM. 
There is no known cure for RBD. Medical doctors typically prescribe high doses of sleep aids or low doses of the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam.

Alleviating symptoms naturally

Consider these alternatives to managing your sleep disorder.
  • Set up a sleep schedule — Try as much as possible to stick to the same sleep schedule, even on weekends. 
  • Avoid stimulants — Do not drink caffeine or consume nicotine a few hours before you intend to go to bed.
  • Lose weight — Carrying excess weight can disrupt sleep quality and quantity. 
  • Exercise — Health groups recommend getting at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. This spends energy which makes it easier for you to fall asleep. Do not exercise sooner than four hours before bedtime though.

Sources include:

A 40-year-old New Year's Day tradition unites Boulder running group

By Elizabeth Hernandez - December 31, 2017

Dawn Patrol made commitment to run up Flagstaff Mountain

Gary Sobol, organizer of the running group The Dawn Patrol, stands at the Chautauqua Trail on Friday in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

For the past 40 New Year's Days, a group of Boulder athletes have risen early, shaking off the past year and embracing the next with a ceremonial jaunt up Flagstaff Mountain. 
Gary Sobol hasn't missed a year. 
The 78-year-old Boulderite still organizes the self-named "Dawn Patrol" crew and meets the gang at the top of the mountain, although Parkinson's disease has led to Sobol driving part of the way rather than the usual group run.
"I'm the only one who's made it every year," he said of the crew, which fluctuates between around a dozen to 30 people depending on the weather. "With Parkinson's disease, it's very hard to go, but with the help of my adorable wife, who sticks right with me, we get to the top together. We take a little shortcut now, but we're up there and greet the first runner."
Sobol and his family moved to Boulder in 1976.
"I was overweight and out of shape, so I started running," he said. 
Exercise introduced Sobol to some local runners and hikers who decided they'd run up Flagstaff Mountain on New Year's Day to start the year off on the right frigid foot in 1977.
"We made a commitment: we would return every New Year's Day, regardless of anything else," he said. "It was kind of comical."
That first year, Sobol recalled just two people showed up for the run at the meeting spot in Basemar Shopping Center — in part, because he said it was 20 degrees below zero.
"By the time we got to the Flagstaff House restaurant, my friend had icicles hanging off his hat," he said.
Icicle hats or not, folks kept showing up every year in bigger quantities as word-of-mouth of the healthy Boulder tradition spread.
Some ran, some biked, others hiked and some walked up from the Chautauqua Trailhead, gabbing along the way until they all met at the top for a celebration.
Longtime Dawn Patrol member Martha Eskesen said back in the group's glory days, they used to tote champagne and "scrappy, little fireworks" to the top.
"I haven't seen champagne up there in awhile, though," Eskesen said. "And, obviously, no more fireworks."
Members of the Dawn Patrol celebrate the start of 2013 on Flagstaff Mountain. "It's the camaraderie I love —- the friendships," said Gary Sobol, 78, who estimates the group spends four hours together on each morning of New Year's Day. (Anne Sobol / Courtesy Photo)

When the Dawn Patrol reaches the ground again, they all head to breakfast at the Egg and I to feast and chatter.
"This group has been through a lot," said Sue Brown, Sobol's daughter. "Marriages, divorces, illnesses. My dad has had three bouts of cancer and Parkinson's disease. Through it all, they're still together."
Sobol estimates he and the crew spend four hours of their morning — from base to summit to breakfast — catching everyone up on their years.
"We show up and get out of the car and, because our lives get very busy, from that moment on, we're just talking," he said. "It's the camaraderie I love —- the friendships."
Eskesen takes pride in being the first female member of the group when she joined in 1985. When Eskesen's sister, who worked with Sobol, heard about his athletic endeavors, she knew she had to invite her sporty younger sister to show up the men.
"My sister made some kind of dare to these guys that her little sister could leave them in the dust," Eskesen said. "I started biking with them every weekend, and then they invited me to join on New Year's Day."
Eskesen has delighted in Sobol's competitive zings that motivate everyone to keep going up the mountain.
Some years stand out to members of the crew. Sobol and Eskesen both remember the year 2000 when the crew decided to run up Flagstaff at night.
"We assembled at 10:30 at night with flashlights for the millennium," Sobol said. 
Eskesen reflected on particularly cold, icy, snowy years. She laughed, noting that even though the crew arrives at 9 a.m., "it is Boulder, after all," and, surely, someone will have cleared the trail a little bit before them.
"We strap on our snowshoes and do it," she said. "We'd wade through very deep snow. We've all gotten older, and our abilities have changed, but we all still get together and do it."
Brown even modifies her New Year's Eve plans to make sure she's ready to join her dad and the rest of the Dawn Patrol bright and early.
"We try to make sure we're home at a decent time, so we're not hungover or anything," she said.
Brown finds the tradition inspirational on many fronts. Beginning the year with a reminder to stay healthy and active is a plus, but her father's commitment to the event is what really warms her heart.
"Not only has he had all these physical struggles, but he has kept this group together," she said. "They're all really close friends, and it's impressive."

DNA-testing kit company to launch huge weight-loss study focused on diet, exercise and genes

 December 31, 2017 by Ethan Baron, The Mercury News

A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. Credit: NHGRI

One Bay Area company aims to provide answers.

Mountain View's 23andMe, which sells personal DNA-testing kits, has announced a large-scale study intended to uncover the genetic reasons why diet and exercise have different effects on different people.
The company said it will recruit for the study 100,000 of its customers who are overweight, but in otherwise good health. Scientists know lifestyle, environment and genetics all play a role in a person's weight, but how those influences work together is poorly understood, 23andMe said.

"We'd like to better understand the genetic, demographic, psychosocial and behavioral characteristics that predict weight loss success overall, and on different lifestyle interventions," said Liana Del Gobbo, 23andMe's lead scientist on the study. "This will help us begin to pave the way toward more personalized lifestyle recommendations."

The company, co-founded in 2006 by entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki, biologist Linda Avey and business executive Paul Cusenza, called the 100,000-participant size of its study "unprecedented" and said researchers would look into "the effectiveness of using different diets or exercise to lose weight."

Participants' complete sets of DNA will be studied, to tease out genetic variations that may affect physical responses to diet and exercise.

Previous genetics-based research has focused on the body mass index—which uses gender, height and weight to try to quantify body fat levels—but none has explored "behavioral weight loss," which largely revolves around diet and exercise, according to 23andMe.

"This is important because the genetic variants that influence BMI may not be the same as those that influence weight loss," the company said.

Participants in the study—recruited from existing customers who have already agreed to be research subjects—will be randomly assigned to one of three regimes: One group will shun carbohydrates, one will eat more fiber but avoid animal fat, and one will eat as usual but add exercise, according to the MIT Technology Review.

"They'll report back to the company about how often they have 'cravings,' whether they're stressed, and if they succeed in following the diets," according to the Technology Review. "The company thinks that people, on average, will have roughly the same results on all the plans. What it may be able to figure out, though, is whether there are genetic or personal reasons why some individuals will end up losing 40 pounds, and others gaining 10, no matter which advice they follow."

While 23andMe's DNA-testing kits are popular among consumers, they have also attracted criticism.

"It is a mechanism meant to be a front end for a massive information-gathering operation against an unwitting public," New York University professor and science journalist Charles Seife wrote in Scientific American in 2013.

The company did not respond immediately to a request for an explanation about how it uses customers' data or whether it sells any of that data to third parties.

However, 23andMe has clearly conducted work in the public interest, including Parkinson's disease research in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and South San Francisco's Genentech, which found 17 new genetic variants linked to the often devastating affliction, according to a paper published in the journal Nature in September.

Journal reference: Nature


31st December 2017 

Delayed gastric emptying can impair absorption of L-dopa, thereby contributing to motor fluctuations. Camicinal (GSK962040), is a gastroprokinetic, which is being assessed for its effect on the absorption of L-dopa and the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Gastroprokinetic drugs increase the movement of ingested material through the GI tract.

Patients were given either 50mg camicinal daily for 7 to 9 days or were taking a placebo. Average time to reach maximum L-dopa concentration by taking camicinal was reduced, indicating more rapid absorption of L-dopa. Camicinal resulted in significant reduction in OFF time, reducing it by 2 hours 18 minutes. There was a significant increase in ON time, increasing it by 1 hour 52 minutes. There was also a significant decrease in mean total MDS-UPDRS score (Parkinson’s Disease symptoms). Camicinal treatment was generally well tolerated.

Parkinson’s Disease symptom improvement with the use of camicinal occurred in parallel with a more rapid absorption of L-dopa. This study provides evidence of an improvement of the motor response to L-dopa in people with Parkinson’s Disease treated with camicinal.

Reference : Movement Disorders [2017] Dec 26 [Epub ahead of print] (S.L.Marrinan, T.Otiker, L.S.Vasist, R.A.Gibson, B.K.Sarai, M.E.Barton, D.B.Richards, P.M.Hellström, D.Nyholm, G.E.Dukes, D.J.Burn)

Complete abstract :

Parkinson's stages: Signs and symptoms

December 31, 2017
By Jenna Fletcher

Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that causes coordination issues, including tremors and speech impediments. A person may have all or only some of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's.
While everyone with Parkinson's experiences the disease differently, it is broken down into several stages depending on the symptoms. In this article, we look at the signs and symptoms that are typically present at each stage of the disease.

What are the stages of Parkinson's?

Parkinson's disease is broken into five stages. Each stage presents changing or new symptoms that a person is likely to encounter.

Dividing the disease into stages helps doctors and caregivers understand and address some of the challenges a person is experiencing as the disease progresses.

Stage 1

During the initial stages of Parkinson's disease, the symptoms are typically not severe. A person can perform everyday tasks with minimal issues, so many of the signs and symptoms of stage 1 can be missed.
Some signs and symptoms of this stage include changes in:
  • posture
  • facial expressions
  • walking
In addition, a person may experience mild tremors on one side of the body. A doctor might prescribe medication at this stage that will help control the symptoms.

Stage 2

Tremors, trembling, and stiffness affect both sides of the body in stage 2 of the disease and are much more noticeable.
The increased stiffness is often enough to delay tasks. A person may find it difficult to maintain independent living, according to their age and other factors.
Walking, speech, and posture problems are often more noticeable in stage 2 of Parkinson's.

Stage 3

Stage 3 or mid-stage Parkinson's disease is characterized by an increase in symptoms. A person will experience most or all of the symptoms of stage 2, plus:
  • problems with balance
  • slow movements
  • slow reflexes
A person with stage 3 Parkinson's must be aware of the increased likelihood of falling due to coordination issues. Dressing and other self-care tasks may become more difficult.
Treatment at this stage often involves both medication and occupational or physical therapy. Some people respond favorably to treatment, while others may not experience much improvement.

Stage 4

During stage 4 Parkinson's, daily activities may be challenging or even impossible. It is likely that a person will require some form of daily care, as independent living is not usually possible.
People at this stage may be able to stand on their own but may need a walker or other assistive device to walk.

Stage 5

Stage 5 is the last and most debilitating stage of Parkinson's disease. A person will not be able to stand or move around due to stiffness. Depending on their age and health, they may be bedridden or use a wheelchair for mobility.
Unlike earlier stages, a person will need constant nursing aides. Aides will help the person do daily activities and prevent dangerous situations or accidents from occuring.
In stage 5, a person may also experience:
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • dementia
  • poor response to medication
  • confusion

Signs and symptoms

The main symptoms of Parkinson's disease include:
  • slow movement or bradykinesia
  • uncontrollable shaking and tremors
  • stiff limbs
  • issues with balance
  • problems standing up
It is very common for people to focus on the physical or motor symptoms of Parkinson's. However, there are several non-motor symptoms associated with the disease, as well.
Non-motor symptoms include:
It is usual for the symptoms of Parkinson's to be only slightly bothersome or uncomfortable initially but to get more severe as the disease advances.

Rating scales

A doctor will often reference a scale when discussing Parkinson's with an individual. The scale is used to help determine the progression of the disease.
The stages, as mentioned above, follow how the person regresses, or how their symptoms worsen. Most scales are based on motor symptoms, but other scales focus on non-motor symptoms.
There are two common scales doctors use:
  • Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS)
  • Hoehn and Yahr stages

Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS)

The UPDRS is a comprehensive tool used to look at a variety of symptoms. Some of the symptoms it assesses include:
  • mental functioning
  • mood
  • social interaction
  • movement
Looking at a wide variety of symptoms helps doctors get a better idea of how Parkinson's is affecting a person's everyday life, not just their motor skills.

Hoehn and Yahr stages

Hoehn and Yahr stages is a relatively simplistic scale. It focuses on the progression of motor symptoms.
Motor symptoms are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 points. The scale is very similar to the five stages of Parkinson's:
  • 1–2 points is the early stages
  • 2–3 points is the mid-stages
  • 4–5 points is considered advanced stages

How does Parkinson's progress?

Currently, doctors and researchers use a theory known as Braak's hypothesis. The hypothesis or theory is that Parkinson's starts in a few parts of the central nervous system, including:
  • the enteric nervous system
  • the medulla
  • the olfactory bulb
The olfactory bulb affects the sense of smell, so researchers are looking into how to use smell as an early detection sign of the disease.
The Braak's hypothesis further explains that Parkinson's only extends to the brain's substantia nigra and cortex, affecting movements, when the disease has progressed. These areas are responsible for the other motor and non-motor symptoms of the disease in later stages.


Currently, there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease. Once Parkinson's is diagnosed, the symptoms can often be treated with medications and therapies, especially in the early stages.
As the disease progresses, people may experience a reduced quality of life if their normal functions, such as swallowing and eating, start to be affected.
While Parkinson's is not life-threatening, people may experience life-threatening complications, such as choking on food or falling down.

Skipton Branch Parkinson’s UK start free exercise classes

Stuart Thompson - December 29, 2017

Skipton Branch Parkinson’s UK are starting new exercise classes Picture by Stephen Garnett

NEW afternoon exercise classes aimed at helping people with Parkinson's Disease are set to start in Skipton on Thursday, January 11.
The free monthly classes are run by Skipton Branch Parkinson’s UK and will take place at Greatwood and Horse Close Community Centre, North Parade, 1.30-3pm.

Neuro-physiotherapist Rachael Sharples, who will run the sessions, said: "Come along to the friendly classes with activity, exercises, singing, relaxation and education. All topped off with tea, biscuits and chat.”
For more information contact Skipton Branch Parkinson’s UK on 01756 796967.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rock Steady Boxing comes to Atascadero

December 29, 2017

Program helps those with Parkinson's disease

ATASCADERO — Rock Steady Boxing, a unique exercise program, based on training used by boxing pros, and adapted to people with Parkinson's disease, will now be available in the Atascadero area. The program involves regular exercises such as stretching, bicycling, running, jump-roping, push-ups, balancing and lots of non-contact boxing, led by experienced trainers/coaches. Rock Steady serves both men and women of all ages and levels of ability.
“We are fortunate to be able to bring this program to Atascadero,” Debbie Brewer said, who successfully completed the Rock Steady Boxing Training Camp and is certified to offer Rock Steady Boxing training classes to individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Classes started Oct. 3 at S6 Martial Arts, 5890 Entrada Ave., Atascadero.
Next month come out to S6 Martial Arts Studio on Jan. 19, from noon until 2 p.m. for the Rock Steady Boxing ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house. You will have the opportunity to meet the amazing boxers that attend, watch live demos and grab some refreshments.
The Rock Steady Boxing Method was developed in Indianapolis over the course of seven years. In 2012, the training camp launched to share the Rock Steady Boxing Method with other people who are fighting back against Parkinson’s. Today there are 448 Rock Steady Boxing affiliates in the 50 states and international affiliates in Italy and Canada that have been initiated by the trained coaches. All coaches complete the requirements of Rock Steady Boxing and have been officially certified in the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters and training center in Indianapolis. 
“We have always believed in the Rock Steady Boxing Method,” said Joyce Johnson, the Executive Director of Rock Steady Boxing Inc. “When evidence began to emerge that our program had a very positive impact on the ‘boxers’, our mission became clear — to share our knowledge and experience with all people with Parkinson’s.That is why we decided to make our training available worldwide — to train as many as we can so together we can improve the care of people with Parkinson’s everywhere.” 
Rock Steady Boxing Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2006 with six participants. Participation has steadily increased to more than 155 members today, including men and women ranging in age from 35-90. Classes are geared to people at all stages of Parkinson’s disease and multiple volunteers contribute their time and talents to assist with the classes.
Debbie Brewer has rented space in the S6 gym from Sensei Brock Statton and runs, managers and coaches for Rock Steady Boxing. Brewer began teaching fitness back in 2009 when she started coaching jazzercise classes and quickly began teaching kickboxing at S6 Martial Arts. 
“My father-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about six years ago,” Brewer said.  “And his neurologist suggested that we try out this program called Rock Steady Boxing.”
Until Brewer brought the program to Atascadero the closest available gym that provided Rock Steady Boxing techniques was in Santa Maria. Brewer has only been teaching the classes for a couple months but has been inspired for a lifetime. 
“To come in here and have these people fight for their lives, fight to get their lives back, to feel good again is amazing,” Brewer said. “I spent three days in Indianapolis at the training facility and just saw the most amazing people.”

Discovery of key protein’s structure may help improve drug design

December 29, 2017

Probes (shown glowing here) revealed the inner architecture of the protein A2aAR in the new study. (Image courtesy Matthew Eddy and Kurt Wüthrich) 

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have peered deep into the heart of a key protein used in drug design and discovered dynamic structural features that may lead to new ways to target diseases. The protein, called the A2A adenosine receptor (A2aAR), is a member of the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family, which are the targets of roughly 40 percent of all approved pharmaceuticals.
The new, more detailed image of A2aAR's signaling mechanism reveals key parts of its inner workings, including an amino acid that acts like a "toggle switch" to control signaling across the cell membrane.
"This basic knowledge is potentially helpful for improving drug design," says Nobel laureate Kurt Wthrich, PhD, the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Professor of Structural Biology at TSRI and senior author of the study.
The findings were published today in the journal Cell.
Imaging technique reveals how protein changes shape
All human cells contain A2aAR and other GPCRs embedded in their plasma membrane. More than 800 GPCRs have been discovered in the human body, and each has a role in regulating a bodily function. For example, A2aAR regulates blood flow and inflammation and mediates the effects of caffeine. A2aAR is also a validated target for treating Parkinson's disease and a relatively new target for targeting cancers.
"GPCRs do just about everything you can imagine," says Wthrich. "But for a long time, drug design was being done without knowing how GPCRs looked."
For the new study, the researchers aimed to better understand the relationship between A2aAR function and dynamic changes in its structure to help inform drug design.
The research built on previous studies where scientists used an imaging technique called x-ray crystallography to determine A2aAR's three-dimensional structure. The images showed that A2aAR looks like a chain that crisscrosses the cell membrane and has an opening on the side facing out of the cell. The region of the GPCR structure that sticks out of the membrane interacts with drugs and other molecules to signal to partner proteins inside the cell.
Although crystal structures provided a key outline of the receptor's shape in inactive and active-like states, they could not show motion and changes in structure when A2aAR meets new binding partners, such as pharmaceutical candidates. In short, the researchers in the new study needed to investigate why A2aAR works the way it does.
To solve this problem, the researchers used a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, which creates strong magnetic fields to locate the positions of probes in a sample. Wthrich is a world-renowned leader in the NMR field and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002 for pioneering work in NMR to study the structures of biological molecules. With NMR, scientists can determine the structures of proteins and study their dynamic properties in solution at physiological temperatures--the way they exist in the human body.
In work spearheaded by TSRI's Matthew Eddy, PhD, first author of the new study, the researchers used NMR to observe A2aAR in many different conformations, shedding light on how it changes shape on the surface of human cells in response to drug treatments.
Importantly, NMR let the team visualize changes in the internal architecture of A2aAR. This took them beyond previous solution NMR studies, which focused on the technically less demanding observation of NMR-observable probes attached to flexible parts of GPCRs, mostly located at or near the surface of the receptor. The approach in the new study enabled researchers to follow the effects of drug binding at the extracellular surface on changes in protein structure and dynamics at the intracellular surface--the structural basis of signal transfer--across the heart of the GPCR.
It was like the researchers had seen a car, and with NMR, they could finally inspect its engine.
Rethinking how we design drugs
Two details in A2aAR's structure gave researchers insight into how future drugs could manipulate the receptor. One key finding was that replacing one particular amino acid in the receptor's center destroyed the receptor's ability to send signals into the cell.
"With this finding, we can say 'A-ha! It is this change in structure that kills the signaling activity.' Maybe we can make a change in a drug to overcome this limit," says Wthrich.
The researchers also revealed the activity of a "toggle switch" in A2aAR. Previous studies suggested that one of the tryptophan amino acids in A2aAR flips up and down in concert with A2aAR's activity. With NMR, the scientists directly observed this unique tryptophan as it changed orientations in response to different drugs. Chemists could potentially modify drugs to manipulate this switch and control A2aAR signaling.
The researchers emphasize that this new study is potentially relevant for much of the large family of GPCRs. In fact, structural details from this study could apply to more than 600 "class A" GPCRs in our bodies.