Grants & Funding Archive

Team Parkinson Helps to Fund Exercise Grant at USC

In June of 2003, Team Parkinson was very pleased to be able to support Parkinson's disease research at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine with a grant of $20,000. The grant money will assist USC's Department of Neurology to examine the value of exercise as a tool for strengthening the Central Nervous System's ability to adapt and reorganize in response to injury or disease. Team Parkinson is very interested in this particular study because it provides a scientific analysis of a phenomenon experienced by several of our team members: we seem to have better control over our Parkinson's symptoms while training aggressively for a particular event, like the 5k walk or the marathon. The doctors at USC believe that this regular exercise affects not only the Parkinson's symptoms but also causes permanent changes in the brain circuitry, enhancing cognition, mood and quality of life. Team Parkinson is proud to be able to support this research.

John Ball - Co-chair Team Parkinson

The effect of exercise on cognition, mood, and quality of life in Parkinson's disease
M. Welsh, J. Hui, C. McCleary, M. Lew

The central nervous system (CNS) has the well-known ability to adapt to changes in the environment by rearranging its circuitry. This CNS "plasticity" allows the brain to strengthen existing circuits, or compensate for damaged ones due to injury or disease. This project aims to study whether exercise in Parkinson's disease (PD) can induce a permanent rearrangement in brain circuitry, thereby improving cognition, mood, and quality of life. These circuitry changes have already been shown to occur in normal individuals, where regular aerobic exercise results in enhanced mood and executive cognitive functioning. These behavioral measures have further been associated with increased connections between neurons and greater brain tissue density.

In the proposed study, we will examine individuals with moderate stage Parkinson's disease. Participants will be randomized to an aerobic exercise program consisting of walking, a non-aerobic program consisting of stretching, or a control group, who will continue with their current activity level. The exercise groups will meet three times a week, and all participants will receive standard medical treatment for their PD symptoms. At the end of 6 months, exercise will be offered to all participants. Our outcome measures will include assessments of memory, executive planning ability, mood, anxiety, and perceived quality of life. We hope to be able to follow enrolled individuals for years to come, and document changes in cognition and mood over the course of the disease. In addition, we hope to obtain functional brain imaging at yearly intervals to document anatomic changes occurring as a result of the disease.

We believe that regular exercise in PD will cause a permanent rearrangement in brain circuitry, thereby enhancing cognition, mood, and quality of life in individuals with the disease. We hope to show this by measuring the effect of exercise on certain measures of brain function. The results of this study will be an important step in being able to alter the course of PD, perhaps as easily as prescribing exercise as an early intervention.

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