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PARKINSON'S DISEASE GLOSSARY

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Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors

A class of drugs used to treat mild to moderate dementia in Parkinson's disease. These drugs increase brain levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which helps neurons communicate with each other and is involved in memory, learning and thinking.

See also: dementia

Adult stem cells

Undifferentiated cells, found in a differentiated tissue, that can renew themselves and - with certain limitations - differentiate to yield all the specialized cell types of the tissue from which they originated. For more information see the MJFF Viewpoint on Cell Replacement Therapy. In addition, see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of stem cells.

See also: embryonic stem cells, stem cells, umbilical cord-derived stem cells

Aggregate

A clumping of proteins inside cell bodies in the brain, which may be toxic. Aggregation of the protein alpha-synuclein is found in Lewy bodies, a pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease.

See also: alpha-synucleinLewy bodies

Agonist

A chemical that binds to a receptor on a cell and triggers a response by that cell.

See also: dopamine agonist

Akinesia

Inability to move ("freezing") or difficulty in initiating or maintaining a body motion. From the Greek a, without, and kinesia, movement.

See also: freezing

Alpha-synuclein

A protein normally found in neurons, and present in high concentrations in Lewy bodies. A genetic mutation in this protein is the basis for a rare inherited form of Parkinson's disease. For more information see alpha-synuclein as a priority area.

See also: aggregate

Animal models

Normal animals modified mechanically, genetically or chemically, used to demonstrate all or part of the characteristics of a disease. With models, researchers can study the mechanisms of a disease and test therapies. Also known as preclinical models.

Anticholinergic

A class of drugs often effective in reducing the tremor of Parkinson's disease. They work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, because acetylcholine is involved in memory, learning and thinking, anticholinergic drugs can bring about cognitive side effects including confusion or dementia.

See also: dementia

Antioxidant

A chemical compound or substance that inhibits oxidation - damage to cells' membranes, proteins or genetic material by free radicals (the same chemical reaction that causes iron to rust). Some studies have linked oxidative damage to Parkinson's disease.

Antiparkinsonian medication

A medicine used to treat Parkinson's disease. For more information see what patients on our Patient Council have to share on the topic of medication.

Ataxia

A movement disorder marked by loss of balance and decreased muscle coordination during voluntary movements.

Athetosis

A movement disorder sometimes confused with Parkinson's disease that manifests in low, repetitive, involuntary, writhing movements of the arms, legs, hands, and neck that are often especially severe in the fingers and hands.

Autonomic dysfunction

Any problem with the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious body functions that affect the bladder, bowels, sweating, sexual function and blood pressure.

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