Like many riders of the New York subway, I secure my spot close to a handrail ó or a seat if I leave the house early enough ó and take out The New Yorker. This morning one piece in the magazine kept me more rapt than others usually can over the 10 stops to The Michael J. Fox Foundation office.
The current issue holds a frank, funny personal history from friend of the Foundation Michael Kinsley, who has Parkinsonís, on his experience with the cognitive symptoms of the disease: the daily effects, the potential prognosis, the testing and the conversations with physicians.
Above ground and gleefully reconnected to cellular service, I emailed my colleagues. His commentary echoed so much of what Iíd heard yesterday in our Scientific Advisory Board meeting.
In the two decades since I got my diagnosis, there has been a revolution in thinking about this still mysterious disease. Parkinsonís has always been classified as a ďmovement disorderĒ ... Neurologists now believe that defects (or, as they put it tactfully, ďdeficitsĒ) in cognition, memory, and so on can predate the physical symptoms that lead to the diagnosis ...
A day ago some of the greatest minds in Parkinsonís care and research sat around a table here and discussed that current classification and the recent research. So what are we doing about cognition?
Weíre learning more about people with Parkinsonís who develop cognitive impairment through large-scale observational studies like the Parkinsonís Progression Markers Initiative,†so we can find people at high-risk and intervene earlier.
Weíre collaborating with Alzheimerís organizations and funding cross-disease research to uncover biological similarities that could lead to therapies for both Alzheimerís and Parkinsonís patients.
While researchers work toward a Parkinsonís cure and better treatments, I like Kinsleyís take on the state of things:
Each of us is a collection of mental strengths and weaknesses: ďnormalĒ people as well as people with chronic degenerative neurological diseases. And weaknesses can be overcome, to some extent, by strengths somewhere else. People understand this about physical disabilities ... We are comfortable with the idea that physical health is not just a single number but a multiplicity of factors. Thatís where we need to arrive about mental problems. As we get older, weíre all going to lose a few of our marbles.
Watch†our Webinar†on the crosstalk between Alzheimerís and Parkinsonís diseases.