Potential for exercise to slow Parkinson's progression
23 October 2009
New results presented at the Society for Neuroscience's annual
meeting in Chicago this week point towards the profound effects
that exercise may have on the brain.
These new studies provide tantalising glimpses of the potential exercise has to slow the progression of Parkinson's – something no current treatment can.
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research
In studies conducted by researchers at the University of
Pittsburgh in the US, exercise is able to protect the brains of
monkeys against chemicals that researchers usually use to mimic
Testing exercise for Parkinson's
Over a period of 3 months, monkeys were divided into groups that
either ran, jogged or sat on a treadmill for an hour every day, 5
days a week.
After this training period, all the monkeys were given MPTP, a
chemical which attacks the nerve cells that are lost in
Parkinson's. These nerve cells produce dopamine, a chemical
messenger that helps regulate movements.
The MPTP successfully killed dopamine-producing nerve cells in
the monkeys that sat still. They developed a slowness of movement
that is typical of Parkinson's.
But in the brains of monkeys that had been running, MPTP had
almost no effect. Their dopamine-producing nerve cells survived and
the monkeys were protected from the Parkinson's symptoms that
normally occur. Even after another 6 weeks, brain scans showed that
exercising animals had virtually normal levels of dopamine in their
What does this mean?
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at the
Parkinson's Disease Society, comments:
"These new studies provide tantalising glimpses of the potential exercise has to slow the progression of
Parkinson's – something no current treatment can.
"Now, further studies are crucial to understand exactly how
exercise affects the brain, and how we can harness the power of
exercise to develop better treatments and therapies for people with
More research into exercise and Parkinson's