We have some important new results to share from our largest ever project - The Monument Discovery Award at the University of Oxford - which is improving our understanding of Parkinson's and driving us closer to a cure.
The project is studying more than 750 people in the early stages of Parkinson's, alongside up to 300 brothers and sisters of those with the condition, and 300 people without Parkinson's, across the Thames Valley.
The team are collecting huge amounts of information which has already helped them to uncover some vital new insights into this complex condition.
Important differences between men and women
For the first time, this study has highlighted important gender differences in Parkinson's.
- Men are more likely to experience problems with memory, postural hypotension (dizziness on standing) and sleep problems.
- Women tend to experience more problems with posture and balance.
Older people with Parkinson's tend to experience more symptoms at an earlier stage in the condition.
These include mobility problems like tremor, stiffness and, slowness, as well as non-motor symptoms like problems with memory and constipation.
Acting out dreams - a common early symptom
- REM sleep behaviour disorder, a condition which causes people to act out their dreams, is common in the early stages of Parkinson's.
- Having REM sleep behaviour disorder is often associated with other non-motor symptoms and a reduced quality of life.
Spotting thinking and memory problems early
People with Parkinson's may experience thinking and memory problems at some stage during the condition but these can be subtle and difficult to identify, especially in the early stages.
This study shows that a test called the 'Montreal Cognitive Assessment' may be more sensitive than another common test - the mini-mental state exam (MMSE) - for detecting early changes in thinking and memory in Parkinson's.
Building a better understanding of Parkinson's
Dr Michele Hu is leading the study:
"This study is helping us to build a much more detailed picture of Parkinson's and how it develops from the earliest stages.
"It will help us understand why the condition varies so much between individuals and how it progresses.
"And this knowledge will ultimately help us to develop diagnostic tests and better treatments and therapies to help those living with Parkinson’s and their families."
- Szewczyk-Krolikowski K et al (2013) 'The influence of age and gender on motor and non-motor features of early Parkinson's disease: Initial findings from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Center (OPDC) discovery cohort' Parkinsonism and related disorders.
- Rolinski M et al (2013) 'REM sleep behaviour disorder is associated with worse quality of life and other non-motor features in early Parkinson's disease' Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.
- Hu M et al (2013) 'Predictors of cognitive impairment in an early stage Parkinson’s disease cohort' Movement Disorders.