Parkinson’s disease is a common neurological disorder that typically affects older adults, although an early-onset type exists (Preston & Edmans, 2016). Parkinson’s disease is associated with the death of cells in the substantia nigra, an area of the brain that is associated with movement (Preston & Edmans, 2016). This causes a reduced amount of dopamine to be found in the brain. Dopamine is a substance that is associated with motor control and our responses to rewards. Parkinson’s also involves cell death in a number of other systems in the brain, each of which is associated with particular symptoms of the disease.
Recent research has shown that cell death may be attributed to the build-up of insoluble proteins in the affected cells. This protein accumulates and the deposit becomes something known as a Lewy body, although the exact function and effect of these bodies is not certain (Oswal et al., 2013). Despite this, Lewy bodies are found in the areas of the brain which Parkinson’s affects, and have a progressive impact which represents the areas of the brain that is affected. First, Lewy bodies are found in the smell system, which is commonly the first sign of Parkinson’s, and are then found in substantia nigra when motor symptoms begin (Oswal et al., 2013), and so on.
Common Signs and Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms are related to the motor system. The most well-known is tremor, which can make it difficult for the individual to write and grasp things. Hypokinesia, or slowness of movement, is also found in Parkinson’s. Stiffness and changes in posture are found during the later stages of the disease (Oswal et al., 2013). There are also psychiatric symptoms, which include difficulty making plans, changes in abstract thinking, working memory, and cognitive flexibility (Oswal et al., 2013). Depression and anxiety are also common in people with Parkinson’s disease.
- Oswal, A., Brown, P., & Litvak, V. (2013). Synchronized neural oscillations and the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Current Opinion in Neurology, 26(6), 662–670.
- Preston, J., & Edmans, J. (2016). Occupational Therapy and Neurological Conditions. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781119223719.fmatter/summary