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Two Remarkable New Ways to Tackle Parkinson’s Disease

Friday March 21, 2014

Martin Denholm

Wall Street Daily - Puckett suffers from the debilitating Parkinson’s disease. The neurological disorder crippled Puckett’s mobility and forced the former postal worker and father of five to give up his job and into a wheelchair.

But then… something miraculous happened.

When he wheeled into Dr. Jay Van Gerpen’s office at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, the neurologist told Puckett he could have him back on his feet that same day.

Understandably, Puckett thought he was crazy.

But it wasn’t some voodoo magic trick, or one of those ridiculous televangelism experiences.

Rather, it was a remarkable laser device that “rewires” the brain…

How This Laser Unclogs the Brain’s “Traffic Jam”

Van Gerpen attached the device to Puckett’s walker and told him the red beam emitted from it was going to make him walk.

It sounds unreal… but sure enough, it worked.

Van Gerpen says this simple method helps unravel the neurological “traffic jam” that Parkinson’s creates in Puckett’s brain. And in doing so, it gives him control over his motor skills again.

He explains that when someone wants to walk, the signals come from the basal ganglia part of prefrontal cortex. However, “if those areas get damaged, the signals don’t get to the primary motor cortex. That’s the part of the brain that controls voluntary muscle movement.”

That’s where the laser comes in.

Van Gerpen says it acts as a visual cue that essentially reroutes the signals past the traffic jam and allows them to connect the prefrontal cortex to the motor cortex.

Simply put, as Van Gerpen says, “We’re capitalizing on the parts of the brain that are working quite well to help compensate for those that aren’t.”

And the result is life changing.

Puckett can now get around on his own – something he couldn’t do four years ago. And with that comes newfound independence.

However, while this is a successful new way to treat Parkinson’s once it’s already evident, it’s always more important to help prevent it and diagnose it earlier.

And that’s exactly what doctors in Israel are working on…

A Handwriting Clue to Parkinson’s

At Haifa University, researchers have hit on an innovative new way to diagnose Parkinson’s in its early stages.

Handwriting.

Sound unreal?

Well, the team’s work shows that a simple handwriting test can reveal signs of Parkinson’s.

And do it with 97.5% accuracy.

The study involved 40 patients, half of whom had early-stage Parkinson’s, but no telltale motor symptoms. They were asked to provide a writing sample – just writing their name and address.

Based on the amount of time they took, together with handwriting analysis itself, a correct diagnosis was made in all but one case.

Professor Sara Rosenblum explains, “While they’re writing, we get a lot of data on the brain/hand activity. The way they’re doing it detects the process of brain/hand performance. If we compare their performance to those of typically healthy people, we can see whether beyond the unique handwriting, there are certain signs that indicate Parkinson’s is developing.” 

That kind of early warning system is all the more important, given that there’s no test that can positively identify Parkinson’s. By the time typical symptoms develop, the disease has usually taken hold, affecting both physical and cognitive ability.

As Senior Neurologist, Dr. Ilana Schlesinger, says, “Now we have a tool that can maybe diagnose the patients early and start treating them before they have major symptoms, like being unable to walk or function.”

And it’s that kind of early diagnosis that could ultimately allow patients to be treated earlier and more effectively before the disease affects quality of life.

Denholm, Martin. (21 March 2014). Wall Street Daily. Two Remarkable New Ways to Tackle Parkinson's Disease. http://www.wallstreetdaily.com/2014/03/21/parkinsons-disease-treatment/