Welcome to Our Parkinson's Place

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. I have Parkinson's
diseases as well and thought it would be nice to have a place where
updated news is in one place. That is why I began this blog.
I am not responsible for it's contents, I am just a copier of information searched on the computer. Please understand the copies are just that, copies and at times, I am unable to enlarge the wording or keep it uniformed as I wish. This is for you to read and to always keep an open mind.
Please discuss this with your doctor, should you have any questions, or concerns. Never do anything without talking to your doctor. I do not make any money from this website. I volunteer my time to help all of us to be informed. Please No advertisers, and No Information about Herbal treatments. Please no advertisements.
This is a free site for all.
Thank you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

No, Dopamine is Not Addictive

January 6, 2017

According to the "anxiety industry," what I call modern media, dopamine, a neurotransmitter in human brains, is at the root of many social problems. In this recent viral video,dopamine is blamed for creating an addiction to technology like smartphones or social media.  There’s a group called The Dopamine Project, which promotes “better living through dopamine awareness,” and asserts that “Expectations of scoring dopamine squirts in their brains keep addicts lying, cheating, stealing and craving the next fix.”  Forbes Magazine argued that dopamine was the ultimate cause of America’s “addiction” to guns. People who treat the unrecognized and unsupported concept of behavioral/process addictions commonly claim that dopamine is at the root of many behavioral problems, and that people develop a drug-like tolerance to dopamine, craving more and more.  Antiporn activists claim that dopamine acts as an erotoxin, released when people watch pornography, and causing neurological damage. Pornography is called “Playboy on (Dopamine Draining) Steroids” where dopamine is squirted into the brain with each click to the online world of “dopamine-releasing naked females.” This delightful article calls dopamine the “celebrity” neurotransmitter, referring to it as the Kim Kardashian of neurochemicals. It’s popular right now to blame repetitive behaviors problems of any kind on dopamine.
Ahh, if only we didn’t have to deal with the curse of dopamine, what a glorious and problem-free society we would have. Or would we?

Remember that movie Awakenings, with Robert DeNiro, where patients are in long-term catatonic states? And the doctor, based on real life neurologist Oliver Sacks administers the drug L-Dopa, bringing these folks temporarily back to life and consciousness? L-Dopa is a chemical that becomes dopamine in the body. Without dopamine, our bodies and brains simply wouldn’t work. We’d all be catatonic.
Dopamine is not a “reward” chemical. That’s not actually the way our body uses it. First, like all things in our body, dopamine serves many purposes. It serves as a vasodilator, expanding blood vessels in our body. Loss of dopamine results in Parkinsonian conditions, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder. Most antipsychotic drugs work by inhibiting the function of dopamine, not because its “reward” makes people hallucinate, but because the brains of people with schizophrenia may be overly sensitive to the effects of dopamine. ADHD (Attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder) may involve, in part, decreased dopamine activity, where parts of the brain aren’t working well enough to constrain attention and resist impulses. Dopamine serves many complex functions in the brain, and only kindergarten brain science describes it as an addictive drug.
Dopamine is connected to rewarding experiences, but not in that it makes you feel good. On Twitter recently, a man challenged me saying that pornography “gives me a palpable dopamine rush after he abstains for a few days.” I replied that this was fascinating, and he must be a thoroughly unique and superhuman person, to be able to detect and discriminate the experience of different neurochemicals. Pleasurable experiences, whether sex or sports, involve many different neurochemicals and hormones released in our body, having complex and interactive effects.
When a person is ABOUT to experience pleasure, dopamine is released in the brain, and in the parts of the brain that experience and process pleasure. Dopamine’s role here is NOT that it makes you feel good. It doesn’t – the pleasure and hedonic or euphoria feeling comes from opioids in the brain, neurochemicals which increase pleasure and deaden pain. Dopamine’s role in pleasure and reward is that it helps your brain to recognize “incentive salience.” This means that it’s like a little red flag to your brain, saying “hey, pay attention, this is about to feel good, and you want to remember this, so you can do it again.” A critical issue here is that a lack of dopamine doesn’t actually make the experience feel less good. In studies with rats, where dopamine was suppressed, rats showed “normal hedonic reaction patterns,” and still showed normal pleasure responses even though dopamine was suppressed.
In another rat study, this one using heroin, it was shown that dopamine transmission increased in the anticipation of the heroin administration, but decreased sharply once the drug was administered (by the rat itself). Notably, this effect wasn’t present the first time the rat self-administered the heroin. Why? Because they hadn’t learned yet that the heroin was about to feel really good.
Dopamine is about learning that rewards feel good, so we can do them again. This applies to riding roller coasters, having sex, masturbating, kissing our lover, watching our favorite sports teams win, and even holding our infant child.  Dopamine may be increased in anticipation of rewards, where the reward is uncertain. So, a sure thing may lead to less anticipatory dopamine release, than a gamble. Why? We don’t know. Perhaps because there is more to learn from that gamble, than from the sure thing. The sure thing offers little new information.
Why does this matter? Can’t this just be chalked up to lack of media sophistication, and pop psychology misunderstanding the nuance? In fact, when people such as Simon Sinek, the author and consultant whose viral video blames dopamine for millenial’s problems bring up neuroscience, they are using a clever strategy to manipulate us. Mr. Sinek is not a neuroscientist, and has not studied or researched the complexity of this aspect of our brain. But, he knows something you don’t: mentioning neuroscience is a great way to convince people you are more knowledgeable about something, and to make your arguments more convincing.  This effect was recently demonstrated by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, who showed that use of irrelevant references to brain science were an effective way to lure people into thinking that complex phenomena are simple, and easily explained by, well, THE BRAIN.People’s problems are never simple. And when a person does a thing over and over, even when the behavior is causing problems, there are a great many complex reasons behind that behavior. When we offer the reductively simple answer of “because dopamine,” it distracts us from the person. It is the person who learns, and dopamine is merely a factor, one factor among many, in the learning. When we encourage people who are watching too much porn, using the cell phone while driving, or looking at Facebook every 2 minutes, to blame their problems on dopamine, we teach them to externalize the problem, and blame it on dopamine. Instead, if we focus on the learning, and the salience aspects of these process, it helps us to draw people’s attention back to their own behaviors, their own motivations, and the meaning that they (and their religious or social background) have given to this behavior or experience. It helps us to put people back in the driver’s seat of their life. So please, let’s start talking about people, rather than irrelevant neurochemicals.

Dancing for Parkinson's class coordinator: 'You feel so empowered'

January 7, 2017 By Meagan Beck

GRAND HAVEN, MI - A new dance class coming to the Grand Haven-area will get Parkinson's patients up and moving.

The first Dancing for Parkinson's class, based off the international program, will be Wednesday, Jan. 11 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30.
Classes will be held at Spotlight Dance Academy at 1445 Columbus Ave. in Grand Haven.
Coordinator Janice White said she heard of the program from a friend and attended a class at the flagship studio in Brooklyn, New York in 2014.
"It was just an amazing experience," White said. "I thought, 'I've gotta keep doing this.'"
The closest classes to White at the time were in Grand Rapids, so she made the trip often to attend. But her goal was to start a program close to her hometown of Spring Lake.
White applied for, and received, funding from the Parkinson's Association of West Michigan to get the program off the ground.
With the funding, White and her team, which includes head teacher Cathy Gumby, assistant head teacher MiMi Dunne and accompanist Karen Frederiksen, attended training at the Brooklyn studio.
The classes will include many different styles of dance and are free to attend at this time.
"It's just so fun and you feel so empowered," White said.

Parkinson’s patients fighting in and out of the pool

January 7, 2017

A fitness and rehabilitation specialist, Kathy Fisher is always looking for ways to help people overcome hurdles.When the former boxer learned about Rock Steady Boxing and their ability to help Parkinson’s patients, she knew the program could help a lot of people through the Randolph YMCA.
“The program started in 2006 with this prosecutor (Scott C. Newman) in Indiana. He was young and diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he realized his boxing training was really helping his symptoms. They’ve found there’s a real connection between the skills that you use in boxing and the skills that are depleted when you get Parkinson’s,” said Fisher, aquatics and program house operations director at the Randolph YMCA.
“Rock Steady Boxing is the only one of its kind that’s helping people with Parkinson’s today. There’s a tremendous amount of money out there for research and that’s great but it just goes to research. There’s nothing that’s helping people today. But this program is.”
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative movement disorder which can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates there are more than 1 million people in the United States living with Parkinson’s disease with more than 60,000 diagnosed each year.
“It’s terrible and it affects everybody so differently. What I’ve learned is if you see one person with Parkinson’s, you’ve seen one person with Parkinson’s. Everybody is different. The rate of progression is different and their symptoms are different,” said Fisher, who has worked at Y’s for the past 30 years.
“There’s good days, bad days and it’s really, really affected by their medication. The medication really plays a huge role in this disease. But they say, exercise is medicine and boy, exercise really, really helps this particular group of people. Really, really helps them.”
Rock Steady Boxing, the first and only boxing program designed exclusively for people living with Parkinson’s disease, is now being offered at the Randolph YMCA. The non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness routine improves the ability of people with Parkinson’s to have independent lives by delaying the progression of the disease. People of all ages and degrees of progression are welcome. No boxing experience is necessary and all workouts are modified to each person’s ability.
“Anyone can come and participate. I especially encourage those who have never seen it before to come and watch a class. Take a class. All they need is a medical release from the doctor. There is a fee for the class but because we’re a Y, no one is turned away because of their ability to pay. So that’s a wonderful thing.”
While focusing on overall fitness, each one-hour workout includes a circuit of heavy bags, speed bags, double-end bags, core work, balance, functional and weight training with the boxers moving from activity to activity. Each class works on all muscle groups with the exercises varied to maintain the level of interest.

“The workout is called ‘forced intense exercise.’ In other words, we take people out of their comfort zone. You have to work very hard in whatever that is for you which means when I teach a class I can have varying levels of people. So we try to break them down according to their level and we put them in the appropriate class,” said Fisher, a well-rounded athletes who has competed in boxing, racquetball and swimming.
“If they fall into a certain level, we encourage them to bring help, whether that’s a spouse or an aide or a friend. They’re called their cornermen since this is a boxing program and they help their boxer get through the workout. We encourage family participation because it really does take a village. It takes a lot of help.”
In addition, the Randolph Y offers UH20 Boxing, an aquatic boxing program featuring underwater boxing heavy bags, underwater treadmills and Hydrorider bikes. Part of the Y’s Aquatic Rehab program, the Parkinson’s classes use balance beams and trampolines underwater so participants are able to work on their skills without fear of falling or becoming injured.
“We’re able to take our boxers and put them in the pool and give them a totally different component of exercise that we can’t give them on land. Balance is a really big issue for people with Parkinson’s so there’s this fear of falling. But in the pool you don’t fall. The worst thing that can happen is you get wet. It takes all the fear away so you’re able to push them to the next level, to really work on balance, to really use the properties of water and resistance,” said Fisher, who has worked at the Randolph Y for the past 14 years.
“Parkinson’s makes you small. It makes your movements smaller, it makes your gait smaller, it makes your voice smaller. We try to get people big.”
Rock Steady Boxing is offered from 10-11 a.m. on Monday and Friday at the Randolph Y. UH20 Boxing is offered from 10-11 a.m. on Wednesdays. Membership to the Randolph YMCA is not required for either program. Anyone with Parkinson’s and their caregivers are invited to observe a class before registering for an assessment. Both programs are fee-based. The Y offers financial assistance for anyone unable to afford the assessment and/or classes.
“With these types of programs, there’s not only the physical benefit but the emotional and the social support. You become really close. Everybody’s fighting the same thing and they get really close which is just great. You’re also doing it in a non-medical setting and it’s fun. It’s recreation but it is physical therapy. You just don’t realize it. It’s really cool.”
For more information about the Parkinson’s programs or the Randolph YMCA, contact Kathy Fisher at 973-366-1120, ext. 14 or email her at To see all the classes and programs available at the Randolph Y, visit

Friday, January 6, 2017

Biking across the country for Parkinson's Disease awareness

by Ashley Doerzbacher
Friday, January 6th 2017

Every year, 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. One local recent college graduate is doing what he can, to help find a cure. The journey he's about to embark on to do just that is a personal one. (Photo provided)

Rochester, N.Y. - Right now, Matthew Barbaccia is riding around Rochester; but in a month, he'll be taking his bike on an adventure of a lifetime.
"This all is it started from a simple idea. It really was just an adventure I wanted to do and it turned into so much more." Barbaccia said. 
After graduating from Syracuse University in December, Barbaccia realized he'd have some free time before going to work with Teach Across America in the summer. And that's when he thought about his uncle Mark.
"He's always a fun guy to be around," he said. "Very outgoing, very talented musician. He has a lot of abilities that have sort of been hindered due to his condition. So that's been another motivation to me."
His uncle was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease 15 years ago, something his family was all too familiar with.
"My grandfather had Parkinson's when he passed away. So that was sort of hard for my family as well."
So Barbaccia decided he'd bike in their honor -- and raise money for Parkinson's Disease research.
Starting in Jacksonville, he'll go about 4,000 miles in 75 days, ultimately ending in San Francisco with a tent, sleeping bag , and everything he needs packed onto his bike.
He'll be blogging about his journey, hoping to not only raise money, but awareness along the way.
"Ultimately what I plan to do is through the major cities and areas I'm going through, I'd like to coordinate events and get people to ride certain distances with me. In doing so I think I could spread more awareness throughout the country."
Barbaccia said he's been training and talking with experienced riders as he gets ready. He's also done his research about the impact of the disease, learning five million people world wide are living with it, and 60,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in the United States every year.
"I really think that I found a good cause to get behind and that motivated me to push myself to really get to something special and I think that's what this can be," he said.
Barbaccia is raising money for the Michael J. Fox foundation, where 100 percent of their proceeds go to research for Parkinson's Disease.
He's got a goal of $50,000, and you can help support him by going to:

#SWFLstrong: 'Helping people live': Women made it their mission to help those coping with Parkinson's

January 6, 2017

This week's #SWFLstrong features Ellen Chaney and Jacqueline Urso, who founded the Parkinson's Association of Southwest Florida 20 years ago. Jamie Stoddard

A disease can completely change a person’s life. Forced away from hobbies, activities and sometimes friends, it can completely control everything about them. But two women work to ensure support is found.
Parkinson’s disease can be one such condition, leaving some too worried or even embarrassed to leave home and do things they once loved to do, but the Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida is ready to help, explained Ellen Chaney, co-founder of the organization.
“We are about helping people live daily with Parkinson’s,” she said. “What’s the best way you can live with Parkinson’s and have a good quality of life? That’s our mission.”

Marjorie Johnston, right, helps Tom Yancy extend his reach as John Merriman stretches to the left during an exercise class for people who have Parkinson's or other issues with mobility on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 in the Fleischmann Park community center. The hour long class featured a series of stretches and balancing exercises.  (Photo: Katie Klann/Naples Daily News)

Chaney and Jacqueline Urso founded the organization 20 years ago. The two met during their college years at Michigan State University and have been friends ever since. Urso eventually moved down to Naples in 1995 and quickly noticed that her father, diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, was struggling to find any sort of support group.
“They had a group that would meet once a month for January, February and March,” she said. “It wasn’t enough.”
So the two teamed up to grow the group, picking up more members until it was forced to incorporate into a nonprofit after a local lawyer made the first donation of $64.17.
Marjorie Johnston leads the group in arm raises during an exercise class for people who have Parkinson's or other issues with mobility on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 in the Fleischmann Park community center. The hour long class featured a series of stretches and balancing exercises.  (Photo: Katie Klann/Naples Daily News)
Now we have a budget of $250,000 a year,” Urso said.
The 1,800 members supply most of the money, which goes right back into support programs. There are bowling and golf groups, support sessions, speech therapy and various exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s.
“We’re at the point where we need to grow,” Chaney said. “Many of our classes are set for about 25 people — some have up to 40 people show up.”
Even after 20 years growing and sculpting the organization, the two founders are volunteers. In fact, only exercise trainers and a couple office personnel are paid — everyone else volunteers their time, including Jeanne Malone.
“There’s nothing like this anywhere else,” she said. “This is the reason we stay down here all year. If we weren’t here, we’d just be feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Jeanne’s husband, Will Malone, has Parkinson’s disease. The couple searched for some sort of support group near their home in Pennsylvania but were always disappointed.
“They were one session every month, usually at a nursing home,” she said. “It was so depressing.”
Jeanne Malone eventually found a group just for caretakers of people with Parkinson’s, such as close family members. She soon learned about the Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida.
“We came back (to the organization) after buying a condo down here, and we’ve come faithfully afterwards,” she said. “Every opportunity we can to go do anything, we go. It’s like a family.”

Togetherness and friendships are very important to the folks at the Parkinson Association, Chaney explained.
Rob Citrin reaches out with her left arm during an exercise class for people who have Parkinson's or other issues with mobility on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 in the Fleischmann Park community center. The hour long class featured a series of stretches and balancing exercises.  (Photo: Katie Klann/Naples Daily News)
“Our biggest positive is a real family-like atmosphere,” she said. “There’s socialization — people go out to the bowling events or golf outings or our lunch brunch.”
Stan Weiner and his wife Joy Duval were lucky to find the association, Joy explained.
“We were so totally isolated,” she said. “We didn’t know where to go. We didn’t know anyone with Parkinson’s. Then we found the community.”
The couple aren’t normally the type to go out and get involved in such support groups, Duval explained. But after a few sessions, she knew it was the right place. Weiner now goes to voice lessons, discussion groups and just started with a boxing class.
“It’s extremely important,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t know what to do to help me. Now I’ve met a lot of people that are in the same situation. I don’t know what I’d do without them. You get to meet people, and that’s one of the biggest things. You meet a lot of people, talk to them — find out about their problems and talk about yours.”
Chaney and Urso plan on sticking with the organization into the future but have larger plans in the works.
“I want it to be self-sustaining,” she said. “I’ve always dreamed of our own facility where we go from diagnosis to death with Parkinson’s.”
Tying in with a clinic to help people immediately after diagnosis and expanding onto an assisted living space in the same facility is a hope, Chaney said.
“We want to keep helping them far into the future,” she said.

Group Activities Reduce Depression among Older Population

Taking an Hour Long Afternoon Nap Improves Memory and Cognition in Older Adults

Summary: Researchers report aging Chinese people who took an afternoon snooze had better memory and thinking skills than those who didn’t.

Source: American Geriatrics Society.

The people who did not nap, and those who took shorter or longer naps, experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause. image is for illustrative purposes only.

Preserving your memory, as well as your ability to think clearly and make decisions, is a key goal for people as they age. Researchers have a growing interest in the role sleep plays in helping older adults maintain their healthy mental function.

Recently, researchers examined information provided by nearly 3,000 Chinese adults aged 65 and older to learn whether taking an afternoon nap had any effect on mental health. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Nearly 60 percent of the people in the study said they napped after lunch in the afternoon. They napped between about 30 minutes to more than 90 minutes, with most people taking naps lasting about 63 minutes.

The participants took several tests to assess their mental status. They answered simple questions–such as questions about the date, the season of the year, etc.–and they did some basic math problems. Participants also were asked to memorize and recall words, and were asked to copy drawings of simple geometric figures. Finally, these older Chinese adults were asked questions about their napping and nighttime sleep habits.

According to the study’s results, people who took an hour-long nap after lunch did better on the mental tests compared to the people who did not nap. Those who napped for about an hour also did better than people who took shorter or longer rests. People who took no naps, short naps, or longer naps experienced decreases in their mental ability that were about four-to-six times greater than people who took hour-long naps.

The people who did not nap, and those who took shorter or longer naps, experienced about the same decline in their mental abilities that a five-year increase in age would be expected to cause.
Source: Daniel E. Trucil – American Geriatrics Society
Image Source: image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study Baseline Assessment” by Junxin Li, PhD; Pamela Z. Cacchione, PhD; Nancy Hodgson, PhD; Barbara Riegel, PhD; Brendan T. Keenan, MS; Mathew T. Scharf, MD, PhD; Kathy C. Richards, PhD; and Nalaka S. Gooneratne, MD in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Published online December 20 2016 doi:10.1111/jgs.14368


Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study Baseline Assessment

To examine the cross-sectional associations between self-reported postlunch napping and structured cognitive assessments in Chinese older adults.

Cross-sectional cohort study.


Individuals aged 65 and older from the baseline national wave of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) (N = 2,974).

Interview-based cognitive assessments of orientation and attention, episodic memory, visuospatial abilities, and a combined global cognition score incorporating these assessments. Other self-reported or interview-based assessments included postlunch napping duration, nighttime sleep duration, demographic characteristics, health habits, comorbidities, functional status and social activities. According to reported napping duration, older adults were categorized as non-nappers (0 minutes), short nappers (<30 minutes), moderate nappers (30–90 minutes), and extended nappers (>90 minutes).


Postlunch napping was reporting in 57.7% of participants for a mean of 63 minutes. Cognitive function was significantly associated with napping (P < .001). Between-group comparisons showed that moderate nappers had better overall cognition than nonnappers (P < .001) or extended nappers (P = .01). Nonnappers also had significantly poorer cognition than short nappers (P = .03). In multiple regression analysis, moderate napping was significantly associated with better cognition than non- (P = .004), short (P = .04), and extended napping (P = .002), after controlling for demographic characteristics, body mass index, depression, instrumental activities of daily living, social activities, and nighttime sleep duration.

A cross-sectional association was found between moderate postlunch napping and better cognition in Chinese older adults. The cross-sectional design and self-reported measures of sleep limited the findings. Longitudinal studies with objective napping measures are needed to further test this hypothesis.
“Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study Baseline Assessment” by Junxin Li, PhD; Pamela Z. Cacchione, PhD; Nancy Hodgson, PhD; Barbara Riegel, PhD; Brendan T. Keenan, MS; Mathew T. Scharf, MD, PhD; Kathy C. Richards, PhD; and Nalaka S. Gooneratne, MD in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Published online December 20 2016 doi:10.1111/jgs.14368

Manganese exposure puts welders at risk of Parkinson’s, even at low levels

    6 JANUARY 2017

The greater the exposure of welders to airborne manganese, the more quickly symptoms of Parkinson’s disease progress
Welders exposed to airborne manganese at levels below federal occupational safety standards exhibit neurological symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers at Washington University in Missouri, US. The team, led by neurologist Brad Racette, also observed a dose response between exposure to manganese-containing welding fumes, and the onset and worsening of the disease.
The team estimated the cumulative exposure of the welders and welder helpers they studied at 0.14mg of manganese per m3 of air, which is far below the 5mg of manganese per m3 that US regulations deems safe. Manganese is often found at low levels in the metals used in welding
The average age of the 886 welders included in the study was 45 years, and Racette’s team determined that at least 15% presented with clinically significant Parkinson’s disease symptoms. ‘It would be extremely rare to see Parkinsonism in any worker in their 40s, and so the fact that we are seeing 15% in this population is a striking number,’ he tells Chemistry World. In the average population of the same age, only a fraction of a percent would fall into the Parkinsonism category, Racette states.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a voluntary safety standard of 1mg of manganese per m3, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has recommended a limit of 0.02mg.
However, Racette warns that the US’s current federal safety standards may not adequately protect welders, and says more stringent regulations may be needed. He points out that employers are not required to keep worker exposure to manganese at or below specified safety levels, and suggests that reducing OSHA’s allowable levels of manganese would likely make a big difference in welder health.
Keith Josephs, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, says: ‘We need to protect these welders – some are welding in confined spaces without any protection at all.’ He notes that these workers require proper ventilation as well as masks and other personal protective gear.
But others are more sceptical. Tomás Guilarte, an epidemiologist at Florida International University who also serves as dean of the school’s public health school, notes that Racette’s team claims that manganese exposure causes Parkinsonism in welders at a lower dose than the current guidelines, but the study participants’ doses are estimated from a job history questionnaire.
While there is no doubt that chronic manganese exposure produces Parkinsonism, Guilarte says Racette and his colleagues have no knowledge of the amount of respirable or non-respirable fractions, or the actual air manganese concentrations for any of the welders in their study. ‘They don’t have any empirical data,’ Guilarte states.
Nevertheless, Racette says his team’s findings are important and warrant attention to try to minimise the damaging neurological effects of manganese exposure on welders.

These shock patterns won’t drain battery for brain stimulation


New energy-saving patterns of electric shock delivered for deep brain stimulation might reduce the number of battery replacement surgeries needed during a patient’s lifetime.
Deep brain stimulation is used to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms and other neurological motor control diseases. The treatment sends electrical pulses deep into the brain through wires implanted into the basal ganglia.
“Because these batteries only last three to five years, someone receiving an implant at age 50 could undergo many procedures in a lifetime.”
Stimulation greatly improves motor function in many patients, though the reasons why remain unclear.
While trying to understand the basic mechanisms involved, engineers at Duke University discovered that timing patterns of deep brain stimulation became less effective as they became more random. This implied that there might be non-random patterns that work better than a constant barrage of pulses.
Over the past few years, the team has serendipitously discovered several such patterns.
Now, they’ve built an evolutionary computer algorithm to more purposefully design effective patterns. In a new study with human patients, the program developed a pattern that cuts stimulator energy usage by up to 75 percent while losing none of the treatment’s benefits.
With a greater understanding of the neural activity that gives rise to specific symptoms, the algorithm could design patterns tailored to each person’s needs.
The results appear online in Science Translational Medicine.
“Cutting energy use is important because when these devices’ primary cell batteries run out, they have to be replaced through a surgical procedure,” says Warren Grill, biomedical engineering professor. “Besides being expensive, studies have shown that that there is a 2 to 3 percent chance of infection, which goes up each time the procedure is done.
“And because these batteries only last three to five years, someone receiving an implant at age 50 could undergo many procedures in a lifetime.”

A 1 with 50 zeroes after it

Grill and his colleagues developed timing patterns by splitting each second of electrical pulses into five segments, which they further divided into 200 individual slices. Each segment formed one repetition of a pattern, with each millisecond-long slice randomly receiving a pulse or a blank. With that number of slices and no further restrictions, however, the researchers faced one hundred quindecillion possible patterns. (That’s a 1 with 50 zeroes after it—far too many to test experimentally in a laboratory.)
To pick the most promising patterns out of this impossibly large haystack, the team turned to computational evolution.
“The method works very similarly to biological evolution, but it occurs inside of a computer,” says Grill. “In our world, instead of a giraffe’s neck getting longer to reach higher leaves, the positions of electric pulses change so that the pattern gets better over time.”
The evolutionary algorithm begins by randomly creating 10 patterns of deep brain stimulation and testing them in a computational model of Parkinson’s disease. The better a pattern performs, the more likely it is to “parent” a new pattern. In each generation, the computer introduces random mutations into the offspring as well as new “immigrant” patterns to keep the “gene pool” fresh.
After thousands of iterations, a new, highly efficient pattern is born.
In this case, the algorithm evaluated the patterns on two measures—efficiency and effectiveness. By weighting the two appropriately, the computer evolved patterns that used the least amount of energy while maintaining performance just as good as a standard, constant stream of pulses.
The pattern that emerged used an average of only 45 pulses per second—a large reduction from the standard 130 to 185 used currently. That’s an energy savings of 60 to 75 percent, which could double or triple the lifetime of the implanted battery.
After receiving encouraging results from testing the pattern in rats with Parkinson’s-like symptoms, Grill decided to test it in humans.
“But modern deep brain stimulation devices can’t deliver the patterns we’re developing,” says Grill. “So we had to come up with an innovative approach.”

Testing the patterns in people with Parkinson’s

In collaboration with neurosurgeons at Duke Health and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Grill and his team recruited Parkinson’s patients with deep brain stimulation implants to test the pattern when they came in for surgical battery replacements. Patients received only local anesthesia during the surgical procedure, retaining control over many motor functions so researchers could assess their symptoms.
In between the removal and installation of the new and old batteries, the researchers temporarily connected their test devices to each patient’s implanted brain lead to test the new pattern.
The computationally evolved pattern performed just as well as the individually optimized treatments developed by each patient’s neurologist over the course of many years, while requiring substantially less energy.
Although it’s not yet clear how this abnormal neural activity produces Parkinsonian symptoms—nor exactly how deep brain stimulation is interrupting the oscillations—the study still may provide enough data to bring new relief to patients.
The National Institutes of Health supported the study.
Source: Duke University
Original Study DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah3532