What is Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, meaning that the condition is caused by the deterioration of brain cells/networks, and the most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms are vast and range from problems with movement and balance, to those less noticeable to outsiders such as constipation, loss of smell, and anxiety and depression. In fact, cognitive impairment is a very common symptom in Parkinson’s disease. One study found that, after 20 years of following people with Parkinson’s disease, 80% of them had developed dementia. As Parkinson’s disease diagnoses continue to grow in number, the issue of cognitive impairment remains a top concern for patients and one of the biggest barriers to being able to function independently.

What causes Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease is caused by proteins that mistakenly cluster together to form aggregates (clump-like balls) in the brain. These aggregates cause cells in the brain to die off, and in Parkinson’s disease the aggregates are found in the region that is most critical for movement. This is why we see the typical features of Parkinson’s disease such as tremor of the arms/legs or slowness of movement. However, as the disease progresses, the aggregates start to appear in more and more regions, causing the vast variety of symptoms that may occur in Parkinson’s disease. 

What Parkinson's disease research is being done at UQCCR?

While the symptoms of the disease worsen over time, some people progress faster than others. This is especially true for the cognitive symptoms, which range from memory, language, visual, attentional and executive impairment.

The research being completed within the Dementia and Neuro Mental health unit focuses on understanding why we see such different symptoms from patient to patient, and how we can detect and prevent cognitive decline at the earliest stages. 

We also have trials investigating the causes of the disease and investigating novel and repurposed treatments.