May 17, 2007

A study led by neuroscientist Michael Jakowec, PhD, shows that treadmill exercises may benefit patients with Parkinson’s Disease and those with similar movement disorders.

The study compared treadmill exercise and its effects between animal models with and without a loss of certain cells that are similar to what a Parkinson’s patient might suffer. Among the results the research cataloged were measures in the level of dopamine, the key neurotransmitter associated Parkinson patients. The study examined the effects of dopamine in motor learning and execution.

Among test subjects with cell loss that exercised dopamine levels were raised while subjects that did not exercise showed little change.

"Our study shows that the beneficial effects of exercise in Parkinson’s Disease may be due to a more efficient use of dopamine, "says Giselle Petzinger, MD, assistant professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the study’s first author. "Surviving dopamine cells in our animal models—made to simulate what Parkinson’s patients suffer with—subjected to intensive treadmill exercise appear to work harder."

Studies with John Walsh, PhD, associate professor at the USC Andrus Gerontology Center and a co-investigator of the study, showed that these cells release greater amounts of dopamine and decrease the rate of its removal from the synapse compared to neurons in subjects that do not undergo exercise.

The findings suggest that the benefits of treadmill exercise on motor performance may be accompanied by changes in dopamine neurotransmission that are different in the injured subjects compared to the non-injured.

"Studies in our animal model of Parkinson’s disease support the fact that exercise is beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s," says Jakowec, an assistant professor of neurology at USC. "Exercise may help the injured brain to work more efficiently by allowing the remaining dopamine producing neurons to work harder and in doing so may promote stronger connections in the brain."

Further studies will investigate if beneficial effects of exercise have long-term effect on the injured brain, identifying the molecular links between exercise and the brain, and to better understand the molecular mechanisms within neurons that lead to these changes.

The study appears in the May 16 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Source: Medical News Today (