Parkinson’s disease is devastating to the people who have it, and to their families and other loved ones. However, significant progress is occurring in the treatment of this disease.

Quoting from a Mayo Clinic Staff website (2015):

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson's disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of Parkinson's disease, your face may show little or no expression, or your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson's disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.

Quoting from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (2015):

My recently published book, Brain Science for Educators and Parents, includes a discussion of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for a variety of brain ailments. See Moursund (2015).

Adina Roskies’ article, Do Brain Interventions to Treat Disease Change the Essence of Who We Are?, provides information about some current treatments (Roskies, 10/2/2015). Quoting from her article:

Despite giving lip service to the importance of brains, in our practical life this knowledge has done little to affect how we view our world. In part, that’s probably because we’ve been largely powerless to affect the way that brains work, at least in a systematic way.

That’s all changing. Neuroscience has been advancing rapidly, and has begun to elucidate the circuits for control of behavior, representation of mental content and so on. More dramatically, neuroscientists have now started to develop novel methods of intervening in brain function.

As treatments advance, interventions into brain function will dramatically illustrate the dependence of who we are on our brains – and they may put pressure on some basic beliefs and concepts that have been fundamental to how we view the world.

You are familiar with a pacemaker that provides an electrical current to the heart. DBS for Parkinson’s can be thought of as a pacemaker for the brain. In the U.S., more than 100,000 people have had such a brain stimulator installed.

I recently viewed a short video of a 39-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease who is using both medication and DBS to control his Parkinson’s symptoms (Roskies, 10/2/2015). The video presents a man talking about his disease. He then shows us his hand controller (much like a TV remote) that he can use to turn on and off his DBS device. He turns off his DBS, and immediately has all of the symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s. He turns the DBS back on and the symptoms disappear. Amazing, and heart rendering!

What You Can Do

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of other brain debilitating diseases are particularly prevalent in older people, and older people are a growing part of the world’s population. So, it is not surprising that there are heavily funded research initiatives in the U.S. and other countries to study the presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of such diseases.

I recommend that you learn more about such diseases and keep up with the research and treatment progress that is occurring. And, talk frankly with children who may well routinely witness the effects of such diseases. Help them learn to treat older people with respect (Wiki How, 2015). I feel that it is an important part of a good education to understand that people change over time, that there are a number diseases that are particularly prevalent among older people.

References and Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff (2015). Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved 10/5/2015 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/basics/definition/con-20028488.

Moursund, D. (2015). Brain science for educators and parents. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. HTML: http://iae-pedia.org/Brain_Science. Download a free Microsoft Word file from: http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/270-brain-science-for-educators-and-parents.html. Download a free PDF file from: http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/271-brain-science-for-educators-and-parents.html.

Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (2015). Statistics on Parkinson’s. Retrieved 10/5/2015 from http://www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_statistics.

Roskies, A. (10/2/2015). Do brain interventions to treat disease change the essence of who we are? Retrieved 10/5/2015 from http://theconversation.com/do-brain-interventions-to-treat-disease-change-the-essence-of-who-we-are-45943. Includes a 4:03 minute video of a patient with severe Parkinson’s.

Wiki How (2015). How to respect older people. Retrieved 10/5/2015 from http://www.wikihow.com/Respect-Older-People.