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Exercise May Help Those with Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson’s disease affects the way individuals move and is a result of a problem associated with the brain’s nerve cells. This results in loss of or damage to brain cells that are responsible for the production of dopamine, a chemical transmitter in the brain. Dopamine in the nervous system is entrusted with the task of sending signals to brain parts that control movement. However, it takes a long time for the disease symptoms to exhibit themselves after the neuron loss or damage process has begun as a result of the disease.

Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

According to a recent study carried out to analyze the effect of exercise on the disease, exercise improves the symptoms associated with it. The study also discovered that individuals who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and exercise, compared to the individuals who suffer from the disease and do not exercise, move more normally. Moreover, exercise has a positive effect on motor skills and walking ability in individuals suffering from the disease

Exercise-Dependent Neuroplasticity

Usually, by the time this disease is diagnosed in individuals, 80 percent of neuron loss has already occurred. However, during this period between the onslaught of disease and diagnosis, the brain is undergoing changes and compensating for the loss of the said neurons. The brain’s ability to reshape itself in response to events is referred to as neuroplasticity. Exercise has an impact on the brain by driving this ability, and this is known as exercise-dependent neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity Mechanism

Researchers believe exercise in individuals suffering from this disease contributes to the neuroplasticity mechanism of the brain. This mechanism helps the brain restore lost connections and distinguish old connections from new ones, thus counteracting the adverse effects of neurodegeneration associated with the disease. Though exercise changes neither the level of neurons nor the amount of dopamine, it results in increased efficiency of the brain cells to utilize dopamine. Moreover, this efficiency is brought about by modification in brain areas that receive dopamine signals.

Neuroplasticity Mechanism at the Molecular Level

At the molecular level, this increased efficiency of cells in utilizing dopamine is the result of two factors. Firstly, individuals who exercise have less of the dopamine transporter that retrieves dopamine from synapses, the spaces between two adjacent cells in the brain where dopamine travels. Secondly, brain cells that receive dopamine were found to have increased room for dopamine to bind in and, thus, received stronger signals as a result.

Therefore, exercise may help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease to move around, improve their balance, and enjoy a better quality of life. You can also learn how to prevent Parkinson's disease if you are at risk. 


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