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What causes Parkinson’s disease?

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This is one of the most frequently asked questions, when an individual has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The answer is, we do not know of just one cause. We do, however, know there are higher incidences in those who are exposed to certain environmental risk factors, while some individuals have a genetic component, and then others we just don’t know.
Within the brain there are structures.

The midbrain portion of the brain has connections with nerve networks called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are the areas that Parkinson’s disease affects, primarily the area of the substantia nigra where dopamine is produced. The substantia nigra are a fraction of 1% of all nerve cells. Each nerve cell in the substantia nigra connects with tens of thousands of other nerve cells. The substantia nigra releases dopamine that is the chemical that make these nerve cells work properly and gives us the smoothness of movement.

Lewey bodies are microscopic abnormalities that can occur in the brain and if there is an excessive amount of a protein called alpha-syneuclein, it kills nerve cells including those in the substantia nigra. Currently, we have no means of getting rid of this excess protein. Nerve cells at the base of the brain connect to the basal ganglia and then nerve cells from there connect to the cortex of the brain. In this loop is a pathway that facilitates desired movement and suppresses undesired movement. When this balance is off because of an inadequate supply of dopamine, movements are compromised. If levels of dopamine are not just right the nerve cells are constantly trying to adapt, frequently becoming unstable, thus creating movement problems.

Exercise increases dopamine in the brain. A tailored exercise program can help those affected by Parkinson’s disease manage their symptoms better.