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The MAL has launched a study entitled “EMG modules as a novel biomarker of basal ganglia plasticity in Parkinson’s disease”. The study funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation aims to identify specific characteristics of muscle activity that could be linked to changes within the brain that are associated with Parkinson’s disease.

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Research

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Upper Extremity Muscle Synergies in Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the (CNS) Central Nervous System that slowly destroys the body’s ability to produce dopamine cells in the brain and over time cause poor balance, stiffness and slowness. The beginning of the disease gives immense amounts of insight into a few specific primitive signs into the disease which is called “muscle synergies”.  The increased study in this area has allowed us to apply techniques to look at the muscle activation patterns in an individual who has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). An estimated 1 million elderly individuals are affected with this disease solely in the United States, due to the projected growth of elderly persons in the future we will surely have to deal with more people with Parkinson’s disease in the foreseeable years. While PD is most definitely one of the most common neurological disorders it is difficult to diagnose as it symptoms manifest only after about 70 to 80 percent of the striatal DA and at least one third of the DA neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta and striatal DA fibers have degenerated. This interferes with the possible strategies used to combat the disease as the onset of the disease’s symptoms appear late in the disease.

There are several aims that will be achieved through this study. Our encompassing objective is to study muscle activation patterns in individuals with PD during the performance of arm reaching movements and gait. Our last aim is to correlate the characteristics of muscle activation patterns in both limbs in individuals with PD to characteristics of DA binding within the brain.

The study will take place in the Motion Analysis Lab at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (SRH) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Patients with PD will undergo an MRI at MGH to assess the correlation between muscle synergies and brain function. The participants without PD will NOT undergo MRI tests. There will be a physical test where the participants are to run on a treadmill with speed adjusted at specific intervals. The individuals in the study will also need to participate in a PET scan that will assess the correlation between changes in muscle synergies and biochemical (DA) activity.

People who are to participate in this study should understand that there is no diagnosis or treatment involved while you are in this study. It should also be noted that there are no expected benefits that will affect you personally but, the study aims to revolutionize how PD is diagnosed which will undoubtedly improve the quality of life with those living with PD in the near future.

 

Interested in participating?

You may be eligible if the following are true about you and you have Parkinson’s Disease:

 

  • Male or female between the age of 18 and 80

  • Motor symptoms functioning on only one side of the body

  • No use of dopaminergic replacement therapy or other medication related to PD

 

Possible reasons for exclusion:

 

  • Cognitive impairments that may interfere with understanding instructions as needed during the performance of the study (Score on MMSE is less than 23)*

  • Subjects who are unable to perform arm reaching movements

  • Self-report of any condition that could affect walking

  • Fractures or skin lesions in the upper or lower limbs

  • Infectious diseases that require contact precautions

  • Subjects that cannot cannot participate in MRI’s for any reason

  • Pregnancy, only if it cannot be excluded by: surgical history or post menopausal status with at least 1 year without meneses

  • Substance abuse within the past 2 years  as it may alter neurotransmitter function

  • Active hematological, renal, pulmonary, endocrine, or hepatic disorders

  • Evidence of cortical infarcts or strategically placed lacunar infarct (e.g. dorsal medial nucleus of thalamus)

  • Active cancer, metabolic encephalopathy, infection

  • Active cardiovascular disease, stroke, congestive heart failure

  • Diagnosis of MCI or dementia

You may be eligible if the following are true about you and you DO NOT have Parkinson’s disease:

 

  • Male or female between the age of 18 and 80

  • Age and gender match one of the PD patients

 

Possible reasons for exclusion:

 

  • Cognitive impairments that may interfere with understanding instructions as needed during the performance of the study (Score on MMSE is less than 23)

  • Subjects who are unable to perform arm reaching movements

  • Self-report of any condition that could affect walking

  • Fractures or skin lesions in the upper or lower limbs

  • Infectious diseases that require contact precautions

  • Diagnosis of MCI or dementia

*MMSE stands for Mini-Mental State Exam