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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 12/10/07
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
Patient Info: To learn more about this research, call (513) 558-7019.
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UC Parkinson's Researcher Awarded Michael J. Fox Foundation Funding

CINCINNATIóResearchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have been awarded $70,000 to study whether a medication commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could also improve walking in people with Parkinsonís disease.


The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for Parkinsonís Research awarded the grant through its Rapid Response Innovation Awards program.


The study will be led by Alberto Espay, MD, UC assistant professor of neurology and physician-researcher at the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Center for Parkinsonís Disease and Movement Disordersópart of the Neuroscience Institute at UC and University Hospital.

Parkinsonís results from the loss of brain cells that produce the natural neurotransmitter dopamine. Depressed dopamine levels cause these neurons to misfire, disrupting movement control.

Doctors often treat patients with Parkinsonís with medications that increase dopamine production, but studies indicate that simply increasing dopamine doesnít ease symptoms such as impaired gait, which may become a primary source of disability for patients.


ďCurrent treatment strategies for Parkinsonís, particularly drugs designed to increase dopamine, have failed to provide patients with meaningful improvement in gait impairment,Ē says Espay.


ďParkinsonís isnít just a disease of decreased dopamine production,Ē he adds. ďOther neurotransmitters are affected.Ē


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies show that decreased concentrations of another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, in the brain stem may also impair gait. Scientists believe norepinephrine is critical to the brain circuitry that controls gait.


Methylphenidate, a chemical found in many of the medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, works by increasing norepinephrine concentrations in the brain. Preliminary open-label studies suggest that methylphenidate may improve gait in people with Parkinsonís.


Espay and his team will study methylphenidate in a placebo controlled, double-blind study to help determine the medicationís effectiveness at improving gait. The researchers will analyze movement using a gait analysis system comprising a computerized electronic walkway and sensors.


ďWe hope, based on what we know and have seen so far in other studies, that methylphenidate has the potential to improve quality of life for people with Parkinsonís,Ē says Espay.


Methylphenidate is FDA-approved for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but not for treating Parkinsonís disease.


To learn more about this research, call (513) 558-7019.


The Neuroscience Institute is a collaborative effort of nine academic departments at the UC College of Medicine, the University Hospital and independent physician practice groups. The institute is dedicated to patient care, research, education and the development of new medical technologies.


The Gardner Center, established with a $5.5 million gift from the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation, conducts numerous laboratory and clinical research projects. In 2006 it was named the first national Davis Phinney Research Centeróa collaboration among universities to promote sharing of laboratory and clinical research data related to Parkinsonís disease.

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