What Is Parkinson's?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. In the beginning, the most obvious symptoms are movement related such as tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement and impaired balance/coordination. Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Parkinson’s primarily affects neurons in the an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Despite intense research efforts around the world, the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease are still unclear. What doctors and scientists do know is that PD is caused by the progressive loss of dopamine brain cells (neurons). As the cells die, less dopamine is produced and transported to the striatum, the area of the brain that coordinates movement.

Amazingly, Parkinson’s disease symptoms do not appear until the loss of dopamine production reaches a low of 50% or even as low as 25%. Due to the dramatic loss of dopamine neurons prior to the appearance of Parkinson’s symptoms, it is extremely difficult for doctors to diagnose and scientists to research PD in its early stages. Consequently, much of the research done on PD today is focused on early detection strategies and methods.

The average age for onset of Parkinson’s is 65 to 70 years old. Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s prior to the age of 60 are considered Young Onset (YOPD). There is a growing population of individuals with YOPD. Many people are diagnosed every year in there 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. There is an amazing number of individuals in their 20’s as well.

MJF Foundation

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. They believe their goal is within reach and can’t get there without your support. Please join their fight today. Play a part in Parkinson’s Research. Contact us for support or to donate to the fight.


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The Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), sponsored by MJFF, is a landmark clinical study aiming to identify biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease progression. The discovery of a Parkinson’s biomarker is critical to developing treatments that go beyond symptomatic relief to slow or stop the progression of the disease. PPMI needs 400 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients who have not yet begun medication and 200 control participants who do not have Parkinson’s disease or a close relative with Parkinson’s. If you or someone you love is interested in participating in the research, visit michaeljfox.org today.


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Fox Trial Finder is a web-based clinical trial matching tool to connect those with and without Parkinson’s disease to Parkinson’s clinical research opportunities that urgently need their participation. After volunteers input information about themselves (such as zip codes, date of birth, and brief medical history), Fox Trial Finder provides trial match suggestions. Fox Trial Finder also provides the opportunity for volunteers to connect directly with trial coordinators through a secure messaging interface on the site.

Register for Fox Trial Finder today to play a part in accelerating recruitment into PD clinical research!