Parkinson’s Glossary: The Michael J. Fox Foundation …

Posted: February 8, 2019 at 4:45 pm

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors

A class of drugs used to treat mild to moderate dementia in Parkinson's disease. These drugs increase brain levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which helps neurons communicate with each other and is involved in memory, learning and thinking.

See also: dementia

Adult stem cells

Aggregate

A clumping of proteins inside cell bodies in the brain, which may be toxic. Aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein is found in Lewy bodies, a pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease.

See also: alpha-synuclein, Lewy bodies

Agonist

A chemical that binds to a receptor on a cell and triggers a response by that cell.

See also: dopamine agonist

Akinesia

Inability to move ("freezing") or difficulty in initiating or maintaining a body motion. From the Greek a, without, and kinesia, movement.

See also: freezing

Alpha-synuclein

A protein normally found in neurons, and present in high concentrations in Lewy bodies. A genetic mutation in this protein is the basis for a rare inherited form of Parkinson's disease. For more information see alpha-synuclein as a priority area.

See also: aggregate

Animal models

Normal animals modified mechanically, genetically or chemically, used to demonstrate all or part of the characteristics of a disease. With models, researchers can study the mechanisms of a disease and test therapies. Also known as preclinical models.

Anticholinergic

A class of drugs often effective in reducing the tremor of Parkinson's disease. They work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, because acetylcholine is involved in memory, learning and thinking, anticholinergic drugs can bring about cognitive side effects including confusion or dementia.

See also: dementia

Antioxidant

A chemical compound or substance that inhibits oxidation - damage to cells' membranes, proteins or genetic material by free radicals (the same chemical reaction that causes iron to rust). Some studies have linked oxidative damage to Parkinson's disease.

Antiparkinsonian medication

A medicine used to treat Parkinson's disease. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of medication.

Ataxia

A movement disorder marked by loss of balance and decreased muscle coordination during voluntary movements.

Athetosis

A movement disorder sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease that manifests in low, repetitive, involuntary, writhing movements of the arms, legs, hands, and neck that are often especially severe in the fingers and hands.

Autonomic dysfunction

Any problem with the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious body functions that affect the bladder, bowels, sweating, sexual function and blood pressure.

Basal ganglia

A region deep within the brain consisting of large clusters of neurons responsible for voluntary movements such as walking and movement coordination. Many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease are brought on by loss of or damage to dopamine neurons in this region, which encompasses the striatum, the subthalamic nucleus, and the substantia nigra.

See also: dopamine, neuron, striatum, subthalamic nucleus, substantia nigra

Bilateral surgery

Surgery performed on both sides of the brain.

Biomarkers

Specific, measurable physical traits used to determine or indicate the effects or progress of a disease or condition. For example, high blood pressure is a biomarker of potential cardiovascular disease. No validated biomarker of Parkinson's disease currently exists.

Blood-brain barrier

A thin layer of tightly packed cells separating the central nervous system from the body's blood stream. This layer is crucial to protecting the brain from foreign substances, but also blocks some potentially therapeutic treatments from entering the brain via orally administered drugs.

Bradykinesia

One of the cardinal clinical features of Parkinson's disease, the slowing down and loss of spontaneous and voluntary movement. From the Greek brady, slow, and kinesia, movement.

Cell replacement therapy

A strategy aiming to replace cells damaged or lost by disease or injury with healthy new cells. Cell replacement in Parkinson's aims to replace with new cells the dopamine-producing cells in the brain that are progressively lost through Parkinsons's disease. For more information see the MJFF Viewpoint on Cell Replacement Therapy for more information.

Central nervous system

Central nervous system (CNS) is a term referring to the brain and spinal cord.

See also: CNS

Chorea

A general term for movement disorders that can be confused with Parkinson's disease, which are characterized by involuntary, random, jerking movements of muscles in the body, face, or extremities.

Clinical trials

Organized medical studies that test the effectiveness of various treatments, such as drugs or surgery, in human beings.

CNS

Abbreviation for "Central Nervous System," a term referring to the brain and spinal cord.

See also: Central nervous system

Coenzyme Q10

The most common form of Coenzyme Q, a vitamin-like antioxidant. Results of the first placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial of the compound, published in October 2002, suggested that it might slow disease progression in patients with early-stage Parkinson's disease. The results have yet to be confirmed in a larger study.

Cognitive dysfunction

The loss of intellectual functions (such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning) of sufficient severity to interfere with daily functioning. The term cognitive dysfunction includes dementia and executive dysfunction, and may also encompass changes in personality, mood, and behavior. Cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson's disease typically does not respond to dopamine replacement therapy and ranges from mild impairment to dementia.

See also: dementia, executive dysfunction, mild cognitive impairment

Compulsions

Irresistible impulses to act, regardless of the rationality of the motivation, or acts performed in response to such impulses. Some compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive gambling, hypersexuality, binge eating and shopping, have been associated with dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson's disease, though this association has not been conclusively established.

COMT inhibitor

A drug that blocks an enzyme (catchol-O-methyltransferase) that breaks down dopamine. COMT inhibitors include entacapone and tolcapone. Tolcapone has been known to cause serious liver problems and has been withdrawn from the Canadian and European markets.

See also: enzyme, dopamine

Creatine

A naturally occurring amino acid that helps to supply energy to muscle cells. A preliminary clinical trial in 200 Parkinson's patients, published in February 2006, suggested that creatine may slow the progression of PD and may therefore merit additional study. A much larger study is underway to further evaluate the potential neuroprotective effects of creatine.

CT scan

CT (Computed Tomography) scan is a technique that uses a series of X-rays to create image "slices" of the body from different orientations to create a two-dimensional cross sectional images of the body. Sometimes called CAT scan, for Cmputed Axial Tomography.

See also: imaging

DBS

Deep brain stimulation

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator - similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch - to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and PD symptoms. At present, the procedure is used primarily for patients whose symptoms cannot be satisfactorily controlled with medications. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of DBS and late stage treatments.

See also: pallidotomy, surgical therapies, thalamotomy

Dementia

A decline in memory and/or intellectual functioning severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. Some Parkinson's patients experience dementia, generally at later stages of disease progression. This symptom does not typically respond to dopamine replacement therapy.

See also: cognitive dysfunction, executive dysfunction

Depression

A mental state, and non-dopamine-responsive symptom of Parkinson's disease, characterized by feelings of despondency and a lack of ability to initiate activity. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of emotion.

See also: cognitive dysfunction

Developmental biology

The study of the process by which organisms grow and develop. Developmental biology studies in Parkinson's disease hold potential to identify therapeutic targets and new cell replacement strategies.

Diagnosis

Identification or naming of a disease by its signs and symptoms.

Disequilibrium

DJ-1

A gene of unknown function implicated in rare inherited cases of Parkinson's disease.

Dopamine

A neurotransmitter chemical produced in the brain that helps control movement, balance, and walking. Lack of dopamine is the primary cause of Parkinson's motor symptoms.

Dopamine agonist

A class of drugs commonly prescribed in Parkinson's disease that bind to dopamine receptors and mimic dopamine's actions in the brain. Dopamine agonists stimulate dopamine receptors and produce dopamine-like effects.

Dopamine-non-responsive

Dysarthria

Dyskinesia

Involuntary, uncontrollable, and often excessive movements that are a common side effect of levodopa treatment for Parkinson's disease. These movements can be lurching, dance-like or jerky, and are distinct from the rhythmic tremor commonly associated with Parkinson's disease. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of dyskinesia and dystonia.

Dysphagia

Difficulty swallowing. A common problem in Parkinson's that increases the risk of inhaling food or liquids into the airways, which in its later stages can lead to a condition known as "aspiration pneumonia."

See also: dopamine-non-responsive

Dystonia

A movement disorder that may be confused with Parkinson's disease. Dystonia is characterized by abnormal and awkward posture or sustained movements of a hand, foot, or other part of the body; may be accompanied by rigidity and twisting. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of dyskinesia and dystonia.

Embryonic stem cells

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