In Parkinson’s disease, the cerebral cortex can compensate for other damaged brain areas

About the episode

It was already known that in Parkinson’s disease the brain cells that produce dopamine slowly disappear. But why does one person have mild symptoms, while another person has more symptoms?

Researchers from Radboud University Medical Center investigated this. It turns out that our cerebral cortex, the outer part of the brain, can take over tasks from the deeper part of the brain that is damaged in Parkinson’s disease. This is the part where those cells that make dopamine are lost. The extent of compensation provided by the cerebral cortex determines the number of complaints people have.

The more actively tasks are performed, the milder the inertia and the better the thinking becomes. Doctors have suspected for some time the existence of this compensation mechanism, but it has now been scientifically proven for the first time.

People with mild complaints showed much greater activity in the cerebral cortex, especially in areas involved in movement control. These regions were more active than those in healthy volunteers, indicating that compensation had occurred. In the case of severe complaints, the cerebral cortex was much less active than in healthy volunteers.

The researchers hope that they can stimulate compensation by the cerebral cortex in Parkinson’s patients in the future.

Read more about the research here: Compensation by healthy parts of the brain alleviates Parkinson’s disease complaints

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Megan Vasquez

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