Intensive Exercise Could Slow Progression of Parkinson’s Disease, Discover Neuroscientists

Exercise May Slow Parkinson’s Disease Progression, Study Finds

Neuroscientists from the Catholic University in Rome have discovered that intensive exercise could potentially slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances. The research, conducted in collaboration with the A. Gemelli IRCCS Polyclinic Foundation and other institutes, has identified a new mechanism by which exercise positively affects brain plasticity.

The study focused on the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a critical growth factor associated with increased production during intensive physical activity. Using an animal model of early-stage Parkinson’s disease, the researchers conducted a four-week treadmill training protocol and observed a reduction in the spread of pathological alpha-synuclein aggregates, which contribute to neuronal dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers found that exercise promoted the survival of dopamine-releasing neurons and the expression of dopamine-dependent plasticity, both of which are essential for motor control. In addition, exercise increased levels of BDNF, which interacted with the NMDA receptor for glutamate, enabling more efficient neuronal response to stimuli. These effects persisted even after the exercise regime was suspended.

The study also demonstrated the neuroprotective effect of exercise on motor control and visuospatial learning, which depend on nigrostriatal activity. The findings suggest that developing non-drug treatments that target these mechanisms in combination with current drug therapies could be a potential avenue for managing Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Gioia Marino and Dr. Federica Campanelli, researchers at the Catholic University in Rome, led the study and utilized a multidisciplinary approach to measure improvements in neuronal survival, brain plasticity, motor control, and visuospatial cognition. They hope to continue their research by investigating the involvement of glial cells, specialized cells that support neurons, in the neuroinflammatory and neuroimmune processes that contribute to Parkinson’s disease.

The Catholic University is currently conducting a clinical trial to determine whether intensive exercise can identify new markers for monitoring disease progression in early-stage patients. This research could provide insights into slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease and lead to the development of more effective treatments.

In conclusion, this study offers compelling evidence that intensive exercise may have significant benefits in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease. By understanding the underlying mechanisms and effects of exercise on brain plasticity, researchers have identified potential targets for non-drug treatments. Further research and clinical trials are needed to explore the full potential of exercise as a therapeutic approach for managing Parkinson’s disease.