Parkinson’s Disease and Brain Plasticity

Parkinson’s Disease and Brain Plasticity:

How Virtual Reality Plus Treadmill for Parkinson’s Disease Promotes Brain Changes

Tel Aviv University researchers report the dual reality therapy was effective for people at later stages of the disease.

About The Parkinson’s Disease and Brain Plasticity Study:

The objective of the research was to compare the effects of 2 forms of exercise. This included a 6-week trial of treadmill training with virtual reality (TT + VR) that targets motor and cognitive aspects of safe ambulation. The other form of exercise was a 6-week trial of treadmill training alone (TT). The exercises effects were observed on brain activation in patients with Parkinson disease (PD).

The Results and Study Conclusions

Previously the team who conducted this research also observed that people experiencing PD use cognitive functions of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain to offset the changes in motor skills.  In a way compensating, or working around, the impaired motor function.

Prof. Jeff Hausdorff lead researcher says:

“We also showed that a specific form of exercise targeting the cognitive control of gait — combined treadmill training with a Virtual Reality representation of obstacles in a path — leads to a significantly lower fall rate in Parkinson’s patients. The Virtual Reality gait program, in which patients must avoid obstacles, enhances the patient’s cognitive performance and thus reduces the requirement for prefrontal brain activity,”

The results from the study suggests that a therapy which combines Virtual Reality and treadmill exercise significantly lowers the incidence of falling among Parkinson’s patients by changing the brain’s behavior and promoting beneficial brain plasticity, even in patients with neuro-degenerative disease.

Occupational Therapy For Parkinson’s Applications

The research underlines the importance of combining cognitive rehabilitation with the motor rehabilitation of Parkinson’s disease patients. Whilst not a large sample size the findings are encouraging, especially so, for people at later stages of the disease.

  • Even in participants where 60- 80% dopaminergic neurons have died, there is still the opportunity to promote plasticity.
  • Exercise alone affects motor and sensory integrating and promotes plasticity (change) in the areas of the motor system.
  • For the practitioner, combing exercise + cognitive components appears to extend the brain change to areas related to cognition. From the study researchers they hypothesize that there is greater impact on compensatory brain functions which may ultimately help reduce the risk of falls.

If you’re interested in how you can adapt the brain for PD we’ve compiled this:

Free Publication:  Parkinson’s Disease and Neuro-plasticity : 13 principles to breakthrough PD

Taking Control Of Parkinson’s Disease With Occupational Therapy Brisbane

Occupational Therapy Brisbane is committed to making the lives of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease better. Our skilled Brisbane occupational therapists assess the homes, workplaces, and communities of those living with Parkinson’s disease and make the adjustments necessary so that you or a loved one can safely enjoy an independent and fulfilling life. Furthermore, we offer Parkinson’s Disease Management Plan consultations either face to face or online as well as in home functional exercise programs.

Visit us online to fill out an inquiry form or call us today to arrange for a consultation with a Brisbane occupational therapist at 1300 783 200.

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Request A Free Parkinson's Disease Path-Finder Enquiry Call

Simply fill out the form below, and Meg, Karen or Nicki will arrange a time to speak with a senior OT. On this call the OT will see whether this program is a good fit for you and your goals.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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