World Parkinson's Day
World Parkinson's Day

World Parkinson's Day 2023

Today is World Parkinson’s Day, and on this day the Donders Institute raises awareness about this disease, the impact it has on individuals and families, and the need for medicines and treatment. Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement, causing tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination and balance. Within the Donders Institute several researchers study this disease. Three researchers that were awarded this year would like to share their research on this special day.

Jorik Nonnekes and Anouk Tosserams: Klokhuis Science Award for compensation strategies study

Walking difficulties are among the most bothersome symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Due to walking difficulties, people with Parkinson's become less mobile, less active, and prone to falling, resulting in injuries. An important part of the treatment is learning to apply compensation strategies, also known as 'tricks'. These tricks are often self-invented by persons with Parkinson’s disease. Examples include walking to the beat of a metronome, bouncing a ball while walking, walking sideways, or imitating the movements of someone else.

Nonnekes: “In the last years, we have performed several studies on these compensation strategies, and these provide a new basis for much-needed tailored treatment of walking difficulties in persons with Parkinson’s disease. Our research has shown that persons with Parkinson’s disease wish to be more thoroughly informed about the range of available compensation strategies for gait impairments. We have therefore developed the interactive online platform Our studies have also shown that individual compensation strategies do not all have the same effect on every person with Parkinson's disease. What works for one person may have no, or even a negative effect on walking for another. In addition, the effect of a strategy can also depend on the situation in which the strategy is needed. Hence, in every person with Parkinson’s disease, variety of compensation strategies should be explored.”

From a fundamental perspective, they have explored the working mechanisms of compensation strategies. To this aim, they measured brain activity during walking using ambulatory EEG. The hypothesis behind the strategies was that they make walking more goal-directed or purposeful, thereby bypassing the affected circuitries in the brain that are responsible for walking on ‘autopilot’. Results show that this is indeed the case: the compensation strategies bypass the affected routes and make use of intact pathways within the brain. We are currently leading an international consortium (UNITE-PD) that aims to further unravel these pathways. Want to know more? Read the previous newsarticle about the Klokhuis Science Award.

Marijn Kuijpers: Danish Lundbeck Foundation awards collaborative research project on early changes in Parkinson's disease

The severe motor symptoms that characterize Parkinson’s disease are often attributed to the death of certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. However, many other symptoms, such as depression and sleep disturbances, start much earlier and are likely not the result of cell death but rather of cellular dysfunction. In this collaborative project, the researchers will map early changes that occur in nerve cells when a protein called alpha-synuclein starts forming small aggregates. Alpha-synuclein is an abundant neuronal protein present in nerve endings and is a key protein involved in the development of Parkinson's disease. Together with main applicant Poul Henning Jensen and Fulvio Reggiori (both from Aarhus university), the Kuijpers lab will study how early aggregation of this protein in nerve endings can disturb cellular processes, such as the communication between nerve cells (neurotransmission). By exploring cellular processes that happen long before cell death, the collaborators hope to identify intervention points that may be targets for therapies in the future.

Contact information