My PD Story

Beatriz Nielsen headshot

Beatriz Nielsen, PhD

Targeting Communication Among Nerve Cells to Improve Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s

Beatriz Nielsen, PhD of the University of Colorado (a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence) received a Parkinson’s Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship grant to study the balance between two neuromodulators — chemical substances that affect communication among nerve cells — and how it is altered in Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The findings may lead to new therapeutic strategies for PD.

A balance between the neuromodulators dopamine (DA) and acetylcholine (Ach), is essential for correctly executing goal-directed movements and habits. Goal-directed movements are conscious and planned motor functions oriented toward a specific goal. Habits are more automatic actions based on past success. An imbalance between the two neuromodulators is related to motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

How ACh plays a role in this nerve cell communication is not well understood. Increased insight is needed to understand Parkinson’s motor dysfunction, and to develop new and more effective therapies. Dr. Nielson will study this question in two animal models of Parkinson’s.

“The first description of Parkinson’s disease was made two centuries ago but finding a cure or more effective therapies with fewer side effects that improve life quality remains a goal that has unfortunately not been reached,” said Dr. Nielsen. “I hope that understanding acetylcholine transmission and how it is altered following dopamine loss in this movement disorder opens doors for the development of new and more effective therapeutic strategies.”

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