First described in 1817 by Dr. James Parkinson in his paper, “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy”, since then Parkinsons Disease has been the focus of much research in order to understand some of the processes of this complex condition.
Dopamine is a chemical released by cells in the substantia nigra section of the brain. This chemical transmits signals between the nerve cells in this part of the brain and the corpus striatum, another section of the brain. These signals allow your muscles to make smooth, controlled movements.
Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the dopamine producing neurons in the substantia nigra are damaged or destroyed. Every person loses some dopamine-producing neurons (and other brain neurons) as a normal part of aging.
However, people with Parkinson’s Disease lose at least half of neurons in the substantia nigra. These dopamine-producing cells are key for muscle movement and their loss causes marked physical symptoms. When dopamine levels drop in the brain, nerve cells “fire” randomly, leaving patients unable to control their movements.
The causes of the severe loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra are subject to intense research. Current research indicates that Parkinson’s Disease may result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Please note: Various other factors may cause symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease. Exposure to certain drugs, diseases and toxins are also believed to cause symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s Disease. A diagnosis from a professional medical doctor is the only way to be sure.
Like This Article? Sciencebeta has a free 3 times weekly digest of the most interesting and intriguing articles in psychology, neuroscience, neurology, and cognitive sciences. Want to give it a try? Subscribe right here