University of Southern California (USC) researchers have shown that patients with Parkinson's disease and similar movement disorders may benefit from treadmill exercises.
Dr. Michael Jakowec, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Keck School of Medicine, studied the effects of treadmill exercise between animal models with and without a loss of certain cells that are similar to what Parkinson's patients might suffer.
Since Parkinson's results from the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, which is critical as a stimulator of motor system nerves in the body, the researchers looked at changes in dopamine levels.
They observed that the subjects with cell loss had an effect on dopamine levels after they exercised, while normal subjects showed less of a difference in levels.
"Our study shows that the beneficial effects of exercise in Parkinson's Disease may be due to a more efficient use of dopamine," says first study author Dr. Giselle Petzinger, Assistant Professor of Neurology.
"Surviving dopamine cells in our animal models- made to simulate what Parkinson's patients suffer with- subjected to intensive treadmill exercise appear to work harder," adds the researcher.
The study indicates that the benefits of treadmill exercise on motor performance may be accompanied by changes in dopamine neurotransmission that are different in the injured subjects compared to the non-injured.
"Studies in our animal model of Parkinson's disease support the fact that exercise is beneficial for patients with Parkinson's. Exercise may help the injured brain to work more efficiently by allowing the remaining dopamine producing neurons to work harder and in doing so may promote stronger connections in the brain," says Jakowec.
The study has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.