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Anomalies of the Aging Brain: Parkinson's Disease

by Georgina Cornwall, PhD
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    In this lecture, we’ll take a look into Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease and discuss all of the things that you need to know about both of those. Beginning with Parkinson’s disease, it is a little bit different than Alzheimer’s because this is a disease that affects movement first rather than memory. So, it is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It involves damage to dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia. We’ll take a look more closely at that shortly. You’re probably familiar with this fairly standard presentation of Parkinson’s. We see the tremors with a little bit of shakiness and stiffness, slowed movements that appear to be sort of difficult to start. Balance issues also arise. Now, the basal ganglia, to give us some orientation are a number of nuclei in the subcortical area of the brain. The ones that we’re particularly interested in are the substantia nigra and the striatum. It turns out that there’s communication between these two regions of the brain that gets broken down in Parkinsonism. So, let’s take a little bit closer look at the two pathways involved in controlling movements. First of all, we have a direct pathway in which the substantia nigra has dopaminergic neurons that signal the striatum. Dopamine is deposited in the striatum. Then that message is then passed on through the thalamus into the cortical regions of the brain that are appropriate for the desired movements. Now, this is an excitatory pathway where we’re acting to increase the level of movement. So, I like to use the thalamus as an example of an analogy here, a puppy or a little dog that lives in the thalamus. He’s very excited and stimulated through this substantia nigra striatum pathway with dopamine. So dopamine makes the dog pretty happy. He could run all over the...

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Anomalies of the Aging Brain: Parkinson's Disease by Georgina Cornwall, PhD is from the course Aging.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease initially manifest as difficulty with short-term memory and planning.
    2. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are progressive in onset.
    3. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are neurodegenerative pathologies.
    4. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are associated with an accumulation of abnormal proteins in neurons that block signalling pathways.
    5. Both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are believed to have some hereditary genetic link.
    1. The pathology starts in the sub-cortical region of the brain (the basal ganglia).
    2. The pathology starts in the cortical region of the brain (the temporal lobe).
    3. The disease presents with memory problems first, then movement disorder.
    4. The disease pathology is in the indirect movement pathway.
    5. The disease has not yet been associated with harsh environmental chemicals, such as pesticides and cleaning fluids.
    1. ...accumulate in the nigrostriatal pathway, interrupting excitatory dopaminergic neuronal signalling in the direct movement pathway.
    2. ...accumulate in the nigrostriatal pathway, interrupting inhibitory dopaminergic neuronal signalling in the direct movement pathway.
    3. ...accumulate in the nigrostriatal pathway, interrupting excitatory dopaminergic neuronal signalling the in the indirect movement pathway.
    4. ...accumulate in the nigrostriatal pathway, interrupting inhibitory dopaminergic neuronal signalling in the indirect movement pathway.
    5. ...do not play a role at all. Lewy bodies are alpha-synuclein protein clumps seen in Lewy Body dementia only.
    1. Dementia
    2. Bradykinesia
    3. Rigidity
    4. Difficulty initiating movement
    5. Difficulty with balance
    1. History of cardiovascular disease
    2. Heavy metal inhalation and harsh chemical exposure
    3. History of multiple concussions
    4. Male gender
    5. Genetics

    Author of lecture Anomalies of the Aging Brain: Parkinson's Disease

     Georgina Cornwall, PhD

    Georgina Cornwall, PhD


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