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Parkinson’s Foundation Invests $500,000 in Community-Driven Clinical Research To Ease Cognition, Sleep and Fatigue in Parkinson’s

Five New Awards Address Unmet Needs

New York, NY and Miami, FL — The Parkinson’s Foundation has awarded $500,000 for translational research grants to address critical unmet needs in Parkinson’s disease.  The investments jumpstart practical solutions to ease difficulties related to cognition, fatigue and sleep, all of which are debilitating yet under-recognized symptoms in Parkinson’s.

“As a leader in patient-driven research, the Parkinson’s Foundation understands that listening to the community is key to accelerating science,” said John L. Lehr, chief executive officer of the Parkinson’s Foundation.  “Our translational research grants are changing the field by shifting research attention to the most pressing needs of people with Parkinson’s.  We are confident that filling these critical gaps in science will drive breakthroughs that can improve lives.”

The translational research grants are funded through the Community Choice Research Awards, the first program to set research priorities based on the insights of people living with Parkinson’s.  The awards have helped the Parkinson’s Foundation to identify symptoms that are troublesome for many people living with the disease, but receive limited research funding.

“When it comes to research studying the 'invisible' symptoms of Parkinson’s — including cognition, sleep and fatigue — there is a research desert,” said James Beck, Ph.D., Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, a division of the Parkinson’s Foundation.  “At the Parkinson’s Foundation, we envision a different research landscape — one in which patient-driven research flourishes.  These grants are one way to make it happen.”

Among the five cutting-edge projects supported through the grants is one led by Hengyi Rao, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, who is using neuroimaging to study changes in brain function related to fatigue and the potential of blue light as a therapy.  About half of people with Parkinson’s report fatigue as a major problem, yet no effective therapies exist.  Dr. Rao theorizes that exposing the eyes to a short wavelength blue light may reduce fatigue in Parkinson’s.  Along with Dr. Rao, four additional researchers have been awarded grants to study the potential of therapies that include exercise, at-home brain stimulation, motivational behaviors and cannabidiol, a derivative of cannabis.

“As a scientist and a person with Parkinson’s, I am impressed by the high quality research that is supported through the translational research grants.  The Parkinson's Foundation is always a step ahead when it comes to putting the needs of patients first, and these grants are no exception,” said Girija Muralidhar, Ph.D., a member of the People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council and a grant reviewer.  “I cannot think of a better way to invest in science that impacts our lives.”

All projects funded through the translational research grants undergo rigorous peer review. The topic areas addressed were initially identified through the Community Choice Research Awards, which invite people with Parkinson’s disease and care partners to share their research priorities.

2017 Translational Research Grants

Impact of a Novel Exercise Intervention on Executive Function and Sleep in Persons with Parkinson’s Disease
Amy W. Amara, M.D., Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

At-home Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation for Fatigue and Cognitive Slowing in Parkinson’s
Milton Biagioni, M.D., The Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders at NYU Langone, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence

Goal-directed Behavior in Parkinson’s Disease
Nabila Dahodwala, M.D., University of Pennsylvania, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence

Multi-modal Neuroimaging of Fatigue in Parkinson's Disease
Hengyi Rao, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence

Pilot Study of Cannabidiol in People with Parkinson's Disease and RBD Sleep Disorder
Renata Riha, M.D., University of Edinburgh

About the Parkinson's Foundation 
The Parkinson's Foundation is working toward a world without Parkinson's disease.  Formed by the merger of National Parkinson Foundation and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation in August 2016, the mission of the Parkinson's Foundation is to invest in promising scientific research that will end Parkinson's disease and improve the lives of people with Parkinson's and their families through improved treatments, support and the best care.  For more information, call (800) 4PD-INFO (473-4636).

About Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly one million people in the US and over 10 million worldwide.  Parkinson's is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's and is the 14th leading cause of death in the US.  It is associated with a loss of motor control (e.g., shaking or tremor at rest and lack of facial expression) as well as non-motor symptoms (e.g., depression A mood disorder whose symptoms can include a persistent sad or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, irritability and loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities. and anxiety A feeling of nervousness, worried thoughts and physical distress.).  Although promising research is being conducted, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's disease.

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