Is Exercise A Cure For Parkinson’s?

Although, exercise helps patients living with Parkinson’s, by improving their body movement, range of motion, and reducing muscle stiffness, recent studies have also shown its impact on the neurochemical processes. Physical exercises may affect the brains of patients living with Parkinson’s diseases that directly help reduce the most common symptoms.

Recent research [1] has shown experiments on mice, undergoing physical exercise and the resulting changes in their brains. These mice were involved in exercises similar to human treadmill conditions. The changes found in the brain of these mouse models provide very useful techniques in alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with the help of exercise.

The studies revealed interesting molecular and cellular processes that provide useful hints on how exercise can be the cure for Parkinson’s disease in the near future.

IMG_6526More Efficient Use of Dopamine in Brain Cells

Although, mouse models did not show significant increase in the levels of dopamine or neurons in their brains, the group of mice undergoing physical exercise showed their brain cells using dopamine more efficiently. The key clinical problem in Parkinson’s disease is the decrease in levels of dopamine hampering the body’s range of motion. These results show how exercise can be a secret cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Modification of Areas Receiving Dopamine Signals

In addition, researchers have found that mouse models undergoing physical exercise demonstrated positive modifications in the basal ganglia and substantia niagra of the brain. These are the areas of the brain where the dopamine signals are received, hence, improving the overall efficiency due to exercise.

Molecular Processes Trigger by Exercise

The same research study 1 also illustrates the molecular processes triggered due to exercise that prevents worsening of the condition of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine that travels across two neurons through a space called synapse is inhibited due to a protein molecule called dopamine transporter. The interesting inference in this study was that constant exercise in mouse models decrease the concentration of such dopamine transporters. This helped dopamine stay in the synapse longer, thereby, allowing the dopamine signals to last longer.

Secondly, a breakthrough finding in this research revealed that constant exercise in mouse models increased the number of D2 receptors in the brain. These receptors are binding sites for dopamine to achieve transmission of signals. This led to stronger signals in models undergoing frequent exercise.

Another Research study[2] provides explanation of how exercise can be a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Their study shows an increase in neurotrophic factors, more specifically GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor) due to exercise. This reduces the vulnerability of the dopamine neurons to be damaged causing Parkinson’s disease or further worsening the state of Parkinson’s.

These research studies target the brain’s ability of constantly changing in terms of molecular and chemical processes leading to variations in mood, memory, learning etc. Although, exercise is a good therapeutic recommendation for patients with Parkinson’s disease, it is now also being explored to enhance the release of dopamine, which may be a cure for Parkinson’s disease in future.

[1] University of Southern California (Fisher et al.)

[2] University of Pittsburgh (Michael J. et al.)

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