One year after the Parkinson’s Foundation awarded $500,000 in research grants to address critical unmet needs in Parkinson’s disease (PD), we check in with one of three of the researchers making a difference right now.
Researchers were tasked with jumpstarting practical solutions to ease difficulties related to cognition, fatigue and sleep, all debilitating yet under-recognized symptoms in Parkinson’s. They have each received a grant funded through the Parkinson’s Foundation Community Choice Research Awards, the first program to set research priorities based on the insights of people living with Parkinson’s.
At-home Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation for Fatigue and Cognitive Slowing
The Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders at NYU Langone, Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence
Q: Can you explain your study in less than 100 words?
A: I am studying the likelihood and usefulness of a portable, non-invasive, brain stimulation device to alleviate fatigue and cognitive slowing in people with Parkinson’s. These are two of the most prevalent symptoms responsible for disability and for reducing quality of life in people with PD. To date there are no proven effective treatments available for either symptom. In this study we use a specially designed transcranial direct current stimulator (tDCS) device through a new method of remote supervision. The therapy is done in the participant’s home through video-conferencing.
Q: How many participants are enrolled in the study?
A: We have enrolled 18 participants, and plan to enroll a total of 24.
Q: What has been the most surprising thing you have learned so far in your research?
A: For the study, it was necessary for participants to be able to perform tele-monitored sessions with the device at home. We were a bit concerned about potential barriers in our participant’s ability to operate the technology, however, our experience has been positive and encouraging. In addition, PD participants were happy to participate from the comfort of their homes.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges?
A: Initially, it wasn’t easy to obtain funding for such a provocative and complex proposal that intended bringing A research study in humans that aims to test a new intervention – this could be a drug, surgery or therapy like exercise or diet guidelines – to make sure it is effective and safe. research standards to participants’ homes. Thanks to the Parkinson’s Foundation, we have this amazing opportunity.
Q: What has the Parkinson’s Foundation grant helped you accomplish in your study?
A: There has been excellent communication with the Foundation throughout our research process. The Foundation helped us modify certain logistical aspects and increase our operational resources. Additionally, we have been granted extra time to finalize recruitment and to analyze data that will guarantee a published summary of the study this summer.
Q: Are there any preliminary findings you would like to share?
A: Thus far, we have safely completed 330 remotely-supervised tDCS (RS-tDCS) sessions. RS tDCS is able to be done at home, with few adverse side effects. Preliminary results suggest fatigue improvement and that 20 sessions of tDCS seem more promising than 10 sessions in treating fatigue. Ongoing work will allow for testing of additional participants and aid in determining the ability to treat cognition. Our study’s paradigm could be influential in developing large clinical trials with safe participation from a participant’s home, bringing the PD community into the forefront of non-invasive brain stimulation therapy research.
To learn more about Parkinson’s research visit Parkinson.org/Research.