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Neurochemical signal as the cause of Parkinson’s

By Tim Sandle     Jul 12, 2016 in Science
New research from Northwestern University indicates the likely cause of Parkinson’s disease is a missing the neurochemical signal where an important chemical is not effectively delivered to the brain.
The research indicates that two different kinds of neurons are needed to deliver dopamine to the brain region responsible for both movement and learning/reward behavior. When this does not happen effectively there is a chance of Parkinson’s disease occurring.
In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter (a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells.) The chemical has a role in role in reward-motivated behavior and in motor control. Dopamine represents a wide area of biological research (as evidence by the traction the subject gains on social media.)
Parkinson’s disease is a type of neurodegenerative disease that affects the muscles. The disease is progressive, and it can take several years for the disease to become apparent.
This finding has come about through the use of advanced imaging techniques. These images have shown that there are two groups of dopamine neurons. One group carries signals for motor control and movement; while the other set carry signals about unpredicted reward. Hitherto, researchers had been unsure how dopamine performs two distinct functions.
The research has been supported by applying the imaging techniques to animal models; in particular looking at how dopamine controls locomotive activity.
Commenting on the research, one of the lead scientists, Dr. Daniel Dombeck stated: “It has been dogma for decades that all dopamine neurons are somehow involved in both movement and reward, but this didn’t really make sense.”
Dr. Dombeck then added: “now, it is so obvious in our recordings that there are different kinds of neurons…Our findings will likely help answer many questions about Parkinson’s disease and other neurological mysteries.”
The new findings provide a mechanism for understating how dysfunction with the dopamine system, which is linked with movement control and learning/reward, can led to neurological disorders like Parkinson’s.
It is hoped, in the longer term, that the research will lead to improved treatments for Parkinson’s disease. This could consist of targeting specific cell types, associated with movement control, with dopamine. Current medication can help to alleviate the symptoms; however there is no cure.
The research has been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled “Rapid Signaling in Distinct Dopaminergic Axons During Locomotion and Reward.”
More about Parkinsons disease, neurochemical, Neurons
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