Sunflower Revolution Funds Parkinson’s Projects

Scientists at the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute have received grants totaling $153,000 for research into Parkinson’s disease. The funding was provided by the University Hospital Foundation, which co-hosts the annual Sunflower Revolution gala and bike ride with the Colorado-based Davis Phinney Foundation.

Kim Seroogy, PhD, a professor of neurology and director of the Selma Schottenstein Harris Laboratory for Research in Parkinson’s, received $53,000 to study the effects of exercise therapy on stress-induced depression in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.

Seroogy has previously shown that experimental depression exacerbates Parkinson’s symptoms in an animal model of the debilitating movement disorder. Depression is highly correlated with Parkinson’s disease, and exercise is known to produce antidepressant responses in individuals who have depression.

Seroogy’s team will attempt to determine the effect of repetitive exercise on coexisting Parkinson’s disease, stress and depression, with the hope that the research will lead to non-pharmocological therapies that will alleviate both mood and motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Tim Collier, PhD, a professor of neurology, received $50,000 to investigate the ability of antidepressants to protect dopamine neurons that are lost in the disease in an animal model of Parkinson’s. Although many studies have evaluated the safety and effectiveness of antidepressants in the Parkinson’s disease population, no one has directly investigated whether antidepressants impact the continuing progression of the disease.

About 40-50 percent of Parkinson’s patients are diagnosed with depression and take antidepressants daily. Therefore, it is important to determine whether antidepressants have any effects on the cells that are normally lost in Parkinson’s disease in addition to their ability to relieve the symptoms of depression.

Collier hopes that a better understanding of the impact antidepressants have on the degenerating dopamine system will help clinicians provide better treatment to patients with both depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Caryl Sortwell, PhD, associate professor of neurology, received $50,000 to study the mechanism that may underlie some of the therapeutic benefits of deep brain stimulation in patients with Parkinson’s disease. More than 20,000 patients had received deep brain stimulation—electrical stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus via implanted electrodes—as of 2006.

Sortwell and her co-investigators will use an existing rodent model of Parkinson’s to study the effects of acute and chronic deep brain stimulation on the neurotransmitter glutamate. In a previous study funded by the Davis Phinney Foundation and the University Hospital Foundation, Sortwell found that the act of stimulating neurons with electrodes boosted the amount of a nurturing, growth-promoting protein in the rats’ brains.

In her new study, Sortwell will incorporate state-of-the-art technology to detect low levels of glutamate in the substantia nigra, an area of the brain that receives inervation from the subthalamic nucleus and that contains dopamine neurons. Sortwell also will use the study to document the extent to which deep brain stimulation protects healthy dopamine neurons in the rodents’ brains.

The UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, a regional center of excellence at UC and University Hospital, is dedicated to patient care, research, education, and the development of new treatments for stroke, brain and spinal tumors, epilepsy, traumatic brain and spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, disorders of the nerves and muscles, disorders of the senses (swallowing, voice, hearing, pain, taste, and smell) and psychiatric conditions (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression).

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