Parkinson's disease is characterized by the progressive loss of nerves in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine, which is important in the control of motor function. Current therapies treat only the symptoms of PD and do nothing to prevent the death of these critical cells.
Recently a form of physical therapy has been shown in an animal model to prevent the motor dysfunctions characteristic of PD and to prevent loss of dopamine. In addition, this physical therapy increases factors known to protect these dopamine cells from several toxic substances. A signaling protein called 'ERK' is thought to mediate some of the protective effect of these trophic factors. Therefore, I propose to investigate the involvement of this protein and other related proteins in the protection induced by physical therapy in a model of PD. These results may become a guide in the development of more effective therapies -- including exercise regimes -- for PD.