Parkinson's Disease And Tourette's Syndrome Essay

732 words - 3 pages

Parkinson's Disease and Tourette's Syndrome

Parkinson's Disease is a literally crippling neurodegenerative disorder, manifested in about 1% of the aged population. People who have Parkinson's Disease gradually lose control of their movements; specific symptoms include, "tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness, difficulty in walking, and loss of balance." (1) Evidence strongly suggests that Parkinson's Disease is the result of severe cell loss in the substantia nigra. This brain structure is principally involved in the production of dopamine. (2) Dopamine, among other functions, is the neurotransmitter involved in initiation of movement. Hence, the link between dopaminergic cell loss and cessation of voluntary movement, as manifested in Parkinson's Disease, seems established. (3) However, the applicability of this link seems to not end with Parkinson's Disease. If a severe deficit in dopamine induces cessation of movement and baseline levels of dopamine make voluntary, normal movement possible, can an excess of dopamine, or increased effectiveness of dopamine, lead to involuntary manifestation of movement? Potentially, a marked excess, or increase in effectiveness, of dopamine will lead to a loss of control of movement, just as a shortage of dopamine will. However, in the former case, movement should be involuntarily manifested. If such manifestations indeed were observed, it would be interesting to see if, in fact, dopamine excess, or dopamine at all, plays a role.

Indeed, involuntary movements, commonly referred to as tics, are the primary symptoms of a disease called Tourette's Syndrome. The syndrome, named after the person who first described it, Gilles de la Tourette, "is a complex neurobehavioral disorder characterized by motor tics (quick, involuntary movements that occur out of a background of normal motor activity)." (4) As to substantiate the postulation made above, Tourette's Syndrome should be the result of increased dopamine or enhanced dopamine effects in the relevant areas of the brain, i.e. where movement is planned or motor behavior is organized. Surely enough, research done on the basal ganglia, namely the striatum and the caudate nucleus, has revealed that dopamine indeed impacts on these areas more prominently in Tourette's patients than in unaffected controls. (5,6) The increased dopamine effect in Tourette's patients may be due to two mechanism. One, the patients may produce more dopamine, hence, their receptors are over-stimulated, leading to excessive neuronal...

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