Kathleen Shannon, MD, FAAN, FANA, is a movement disorder neurologist with more than 20 years of experience in the care of Parkinson’s disease patients, as well as clinical research into the causes and treatment of PD. She is the principal investigator on multiple research studies, has been active in both the Huntington Study Group and the Parkinson Study Group, and is widely published in the field. Dr. Shannon has built her research career on clinical trials of medical and surgical interventions. She is also interested in gastrointestinal biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease and the potential role of gastrointestinal dysfunction in the pathogenesis of the disease.
Prior to her appointment as chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Shannon was professor of neurological sciences at Rush Medical College. She led a team of investigators in a series of clinical experiments that provided initial evidence that persons with early untreated Parkinson’s disease may harbor a population of intestinal bacteria that differs from that seen in persons without Parkinson’s disease. Another study suggested that subjects with early untreated Parkinson’s disease have increased “leakiness” of the intestinal wall that may promote the absorption of harmful substances. In addition, she and her team showed that tissue can be obtained from the colon using flexible sigmoidoscopy, and that this tissue shows changes in nerve cells in the intestinal wall that may be useful in diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.