Contributing data for scientific research

Got my genome sequenced by the folks at 23andMe, and consented to having my data used in research studies. As a result, some new genetic sites have been identified through the sifting of the aggregate data of other folks like or unlike me.

We humans are pattern identifying organisms. So if you have Parkinson’s but not one of the gene mutations/variations known to “cause” the disease, it is only natural that we would look for correlations and associations that might also result in Parkinsonism.  So scientists mine the DNA data of thousands of people with Parkinson’s and find some additional markers

DNA and Parkinson’s – discovery by association

A related article

Not having been trained in the field, I think in broader terms – for instance, if 50% of depression diagnoses eventually become PD cases, and 25% of essential tremor cases result in Parkinson’s cases, doesn’t it stand to reason that a person with depression and essential tremors will have a greater than 50% chance of developing Parkinson’s, assuming their lifetime is long enough?  Or would it be greater than 75%? It would be interesting to see a Venn diagram of overlapping diagnoses…


Dance for Parkinson’s – some links/citations

Just posting some links to materials on dance as therapy.

MJFF blog Feb 1, on Dance for Parkinson’s

Music as medicine

Music is inherent to humanity, it would seem, and yet it still is news to rediscover this most primal of instincts helps build healthy brains and bodies.

Case in point: Pam Quinn a teacher of exorcise and dance. She bookends this video with a solo demonstration and a group follow-the-leader exercise: ACRM with Pamela Quinn and Ben Folds

Nice little demo of music as language in the middle of this longish video in which the President of the ACRM trades melodic and rhythmic phrases with Ben Folds at the piano.

(Onwards and upwards, as Aldous Huxley  wrote in Time Must Have A Stop.) 


Music means better QOL in the workplace

“Smarter living” is what the New York Times calls it. How music makes employees more productive.

In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma, said Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic.

Since Parkinson’s is related to the death of dopamine releasing cells, it stands to reason that producing dopamine would exercise the neurons that are left, perhaps delay the progression, slow it down perhaps. Obviously this would be a good thing for folks to research.

the article goes on to discuss some workplace research:

Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami. Dr. Lesiuk’s research focuses on how music affects workplace performance. In one study involving information technology specialists, she found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.

Perhaps. I always used instrumental music at work to keep the right brain occupied while the left brain worked on logic and math aspects of the job. Verbal interruptions, or vocal music, did not seem to be as helpful as straight instrumental music. It’s a theory, of sorts.

True story: Once, while listening to a piece of music on the local public radio station during their request hour, I got a hankering to call them up and request Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss. The DJ seemed a little irritated by my request. It was what I was listening to that very moment, I was informed. I was a bit amused. I had just turned on the radio a little while ago and hadn’t heard the introduction to the recording. I guessed that my brain was trying to tell me something, but I didn’t quite get the message.

Richard Strauss: Death and Transfiguration


One more cup of coffee for the road

It seems that caffeine and therefore coffee can have a neuro-protective effect for Parkinson’s people.
CDC site article on Parkinson’s, Genomics and Coffee:

Here’s a guy who probably won’t be getting PD, if coffee and nicotine protect one against Parkinson’s. (I drank a lot of coffee in my day, but quit smoking early, after getting strep throat and then bronchitis within the course of a few months. Figured my body was trying to tell me something.)

A Good ole Boy a’Dancin an’ a’Prancin’ Again

This just came in: A physiotherapist in Oklahoma has discovered gait training with the use of favorite music and posted the anecdotal results as a video on Facebook. I remember my first experience with Dance for Parkinson’s  and how it got me swinging my arms to the rhythm. Recently found that Walk Like A Man reminds me to get my shoulders back and my head up, instead of stooping over like Quasimodo. (YouTube of WLAM below).

Someone needs to put together a playlist on YouTube of Gait Training For Parkinson’s videos and songs. Who will beat me to it? Bueller? Bueller?


To dance beneath the diamond sky



To dance beneath the diamond sky“. photo of Clematis drummondii by Robert Kamper. All rights reserved.


Something not really research related: An article in the St. Paul – Minneapolis ParkBugle about a Women’s Drumming Center. But for anyone dealing with stress, the quotes from teachers and students speak volumes about the power of community and rhythms.  People with Parkinson’s could do worse than follow this lead. ( I happen to have a warm-up protocol for a Parkinson’s music group I was in that begins with beating a drum and progresses to call and responses rhythms, much like this group).

Over at University of Michigan’s blog, Victor Kartch reports on anecdotal and scientific evidence on the uses of music as medicine in his January 11, 2017, Health Yourself column. He does list some references, as well as listing some of the conditions for which music has been used as therapy with positive results. Slight quibble: music therapy is used here in a very broad and loosely defined sense, which does not bother me, but might be viewed negatively by professionals in the business of music therapy, where a stricter definition of music therapy as a specific prescription for a specific symptom or condition might be considered the norm.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has an article titled “Move your arm like a swan” reporting on Dance for PD  and the “demedicalization” (my spell checker doesn’t think that’s a word) of Parkinson’s. The full article is free and there is also a link to download a copy of the article in PDF.  A related article on a Google Glass app that uses augmented reality is also linked to, is available for free, and has a link to download the full article in PDF. It’s like Christmas in January!




Not just a “last resort”- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) works for early stages of PD symptoms, too.

Science marches on. Researchers found evidence that DBS is helpful in early stages of PDS, not just in later stages. Benefits extend for at least 5 years:

BALTIMORE — Patients with Parkinson’s disease treated with deep-brain stimulation (DBS) in the early stage of disease show significant improvements in motor skills extending out to 5 years of follow-up, offering encouraging, though preliminary, evidence that the known benefits seen in advanced and midstage disease could also apply to earlier stages.

“We found that not only is DBS combined with medicine better than medicine alone, but we have this longitudinal data showing a sustained benefit for 5 years,” senior author David Charles, MD, professor and vice-chairman of neurology and chief medical officer of the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tennessee, told Medscape Medical News.

“Even with these small numbers of patients, the separation favoring DBS is dramatic, so this is very encouraging,” he said.

The PDF copy of the research paper referenced in the above news article can be found at this link:

Early diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s – review and recommendations

The London School of Economics and Political Science recently released a report on the “Value of Early Diagnosis and Treatment in Parkinson’s Disease”, a literature review of recent studies with recommendations for action. It can be downloaded at 
On a broader view of PD,  here’s a link to a page that has links to just about everything Parkinson’s – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) Medline Plus topic page on Parkinson’s Disease.