Cycling boosts connections in the brains of people with Parkinson's
29 November 2012
Research presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America
(RSNA) this week suggests that regular vigorous cycling could help
to improve some of the symptoms of
This new research adds to the growing body of knowledge which suggests that exercise may be beneficial for people with Parkinson's.
Dr Kieran Breen, our director of research
Our director of research and innovation, Dr Kieran Breen,
commented on the study in the media, including the
Daily Mail and Channel
Clues from a tandem bike ride
US neuroscientist Dr Jay Alberts carried out the study after
riding a tandem bicycle across Iowa with a person with Parkinson's to raise awareness of the
She noticed that her Parkinson's symptoms improved after the
"The finding was serendipitous," said Dr Alberts, from the
Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research
Institute. "I was pedalling faster than her, which forced her
to pedal faster.
"She had improvements in her upper extremity function, so we
started to look at the possible mechanism behind this improved
What the study found
26 people with Parkinson's took part in the study, which
involved bicycle exercise sessions three times a week for 8
Some pedalled at their own pace, while others were forced to
cycle faster by motors fitted to their bikes.
Functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) scans
before and after the eight weeks showed that faster cycling boosted
connections between areas of the brain involved in movement.
Should people with Parkinson's take up cycling?
Dr Kieran Breen, our director of research and innovation
"This new research adds to the growing body of knowledge which
suggests that exercise may be beneficial for people with
"Although cycling sounds like a simple way to reduce some of the
symptoms of Parkinson's, it's important to remember that the level
of exercise undertaken by those in this study was high.
"This level of activity might simply be beyond the physical
capabilities of some people living with the condition.
"While it's too soon to encourage people with Parkinson's to get
on their bikes 3 times a week on the basis of this study, we do
know that exercise is important.
"A regular exercise routine not only helps to improve general
fitness, but can also improve movement and balance as well as other
symptoms of the condition like anxiety and depression."
Find out more about exercise and Parkinson's