New Study Maps the Progression of Parkinson’s Disease Within the Brain

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Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), at McGill University and the McGill University Health Centre, have made advances in understanding the process by which Parkinson’s Disease (PD) progresses within the brain.

The findings add new evidence to the hypothesis that brain cells in Parkinson’s patients might deteriorate according to a prion-like model of disease propagation, in which a toxic agent spreads from brain cell to brain cell utilizing the normal connections of the brain.

“The atrophy pattern on MRI is compatible with a disease process that spreads via brain networks – something that had never been shown in human patients before, and would support the hypothesis that PD is caused by a “toxic agent” that spreads trans-neuronally,” says Dr. Alain Dagher, the senior author of the study.

Current treatment options help control or minimize symptoms including tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness or rigidity, and loss of balance. The findings of this study hold exciting therapeutic implications. In the long term, it will help researchers develop new techniques to assess the efficacy of drugs that could target the culprit protein and might eventually lead to treatments that will prevent, slow, halt or even reverse the progression of PD.