Ever heard of alpha-synuclein? Ever heard of Lewy bodies? They’re proteins (actually, Lewy bodies consist of alpha-synuclein). These abnormal deposits develop in brain cells and are now believed to most likely be a cause of the symptoms seen in Parkinson’s Disease – including dementia.
There is some confusion out there regarding these “clumps,” because Lewy Body Dementia is related to Parkinson’s Disease (overlaps), but is a separate entity. The confusion arises because it’s often difficult to diagnose both of these neurodegenerative disorders and to distinguish between the two. For example, it’s my understanding that Robin Williams, the late actor and comedian, was initially diagnosed with PD but that the true nature of his pathology was not learned until an autopsy revealed that he had suffered from Lewy Body Dementia which mimicked Parkinson’s. The difference between the two lies in the distribution of these protein deposits, being more widespread in LBD and confined to the midbrain in PD.
Dementia is an insidious threat that looms over PwP (people with Parkinson’s Disease), but there is some good news. In the last year or two, there has been research which has definitively shown that exercise (yes, exercise!) can “stop” (that’s the word the researchers used) the buildup of the damaging agent – the dreaded alpha-synuclein. In addition to cognitive improvement, motor symptoms also improved.
The take home message from this new research is clear: There’s more to Parkinson’s treatment than Levodopa. Exercise has to be a part of the PD regimen. Lao Du