(08/08/12) - Video games may help lessen a little known, but common, symptom of Parkinson's disease. Most people have heard about the tremors and movement problems associated with Parkinson's, but memory loss affects about 30 percent of patients.
"The type of memory affected in Parkinson's disease is very different than in Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Karen Anderson, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry and neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Parkinson's patients have trouble multi-tasking and using information they've learned. That is where video games and treadmills come in.
Researchers are studying whether three sessions a week of exercise and brain games will help improve memory in Parkinson's patients.
Dr. Anderson says the idea is to boost a chemical in the brain known as BDNF. "We're hoping through exercise to stimulate production of BDNF, which may cause brain cells to function better or even start to renew themselves."
Joe, who is part of the study, has been walking for two weeks, using a special harness to hold him in place, so he doesn't fall. Trained exercise physiologists record his progress.
Vanessa, another study participant, does not use the treadmill, but plays the memory games. "You have to be really quick to get the birds and the flowers together," she says.
Stan is in the study group that does both exercise and brain games. He is hoping the combination will help his worsening memory. "I'll start a sentence, and there's a word that I need, and I can't figure it out."
In current clinical trials, patients are divided into those three groups. Researchers then conduct memory assessments at the beginning of the study and three months after the study.
They are still enrolling patients in this four-year trial. For more information, visit http://www.umm.edu/parkinsons/ct_parkinsons.htm .
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