Four Key Questions on Parkinson’s Disease

As we continue to remember comedian and actor Robin Williams, and in light of the recently shared news of his being diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease, we sat down with William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group to understand more about Parkinson’s and its potential connection with depression.

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which there is a progressive death of brain cells, also known as neurodegeneration. The loss of these neurons, which takes place most prominently in areas of the brain that control movement, leads to the characteristic symptoms of the disease: slowness of movement, soft voice, tremors, and difficulties with posture and gait, leading to devastating falls. It is increasingly appreciated, however, that the neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease affects the brain widely, leading to many other “non-motor”symptoms – the most feared of which is dementia, but that also includes symptoms such as depression, pain, abnormal sweating, and sleep disturbances.

Is there a cure for Parkinson’s?

No, neurons that use the chemical transmitter dopamine are particularly important for the symptoms of Continue reading