Brain Signals Could Hold the Key. (Parkinson's Disease)

USA TODAY, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Brain Signals Could Hold the Key. (Parkinson's Disease)


David Terman, professor of mathematics, Ohio State University, Columbus, and his colleagues may have found the origin of tremors suffered by people with Parkinson's disease. This could potentially aid the development of new treatments for Parkinson's and other neurological conditions, he theorizes.

When researchers constructed a computer model of electrochemical activity in a Parkinson's-affected brain, they noticed unusual patterns in the way brain cells fired signals back and forth. "In a normal brain, every cell is doing its own thing, and the signals create a random pattern," Terman reports. "But in our model, we saw cells firing together in lockstep, creating a synchronized pattern that matched the timing of Parkinson's tremors."

Loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine is generally believed to be the cause of Parkinson's, but exactly how that loss leads to tremors is unknown. In the past, researchers believed that a dramatic increase in frequency of neural signals was to blame; during episodes of Parkinson's, the neurons in a key part of the brain fire almost twice as fast as normal. …

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