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Repairing broken brain circuits may lead to new Parkinson’s treatments



Researchers in the US have identified a series of processes that help the brain adapt to damage caused by breakdowns in circuits that govern movement, cognition and sensory perception.

Because these breakdowns contribute to Parkinson’s disease, the findings may one day help researchers optimise current treatments or develop new ones that repair or bypass the broken circuits.

The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

Study senior author and Van Andel Institute Assistant Professor, Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D., said:

“Our work highlights the importance of brain circuits in Parkinson’s and offers another path forward for new treatment strategies.

“We are hopeful that this work will add to the scientific foundation for future therapies that better manage symptoms.”

The findings centre on the thalamus and the cerebral cortex, two regions of the brain that support movement and sensory perception.

Despite their importance, relatively little is known about how exactly circuits in these vital areas impact and are impacted by Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers found that certain broken circuits in the thalamus and cortex can be repaired using agents that suppress disease-related messages from the basal ganglia, another brain region implicated in Parkinson’s.

Their findings also suggest circuits in the thalamus and cortex may be impacted by two current Parkinson’s disease treatments: dopaminergic medications and deep brain stimulation.

Both help mitigate symptoms but do not slow disease progression and the effectiveness of both options can vary from person to person.

Chu said:

“The cortex has long been considered a potential target for non-invasive treatment but research to date has been stymied by a limited understanding of what goes wrong in cortical circuits.

“This study is a first step toward remedying that problem and offers a clearer picture of both circuitry dysfunction and potential therapeutic strategies.”

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