Yesterday I had a really long conversation with a physiotherapist who specialises in treating people with Parkinson’s disease. It was one of those enormously cheering conversations. Listening to someone who is extremely experienced, supremely competent and concerned for and about each patient is a delight. On top of that, to have the drive and energy to keep up with the medical literature and identify other ways to help patients is awe-inspiring.
One of the topics we discussed is the role of exercise in Parkinson’s disease. It seems that there are some who think that exercise has a minimal role in management of Parkinson’s. This is astonishing, given all the research that consistently shows that structured exercise makes a big difference.
This conversation made me go back and start re-reading Prof John Mitrofanis’ book, Run in the Light, published in 2019 and available as a hard copy or ebook.* This book is detailed and very readable, is focussed on what actions can protect the function of brain cells or neurones. Prof John calls this neuroprotection.
Generating neuroprotection is the holy grail in Parkinson’s research.
There are two graphics that caught my eye. Don’t worry about the details, just look at from left to right.
Exercise and Parkinson’s
The first graphic shows the effect of exercise on the Parkinson’s brain.
The Left column shows what things look like in a healthy brain (no Parkinson’s) – you can see the dark blue lines showing a normal dopamine system. All good.
The middle column shows what Parkinson’s does to the brain – the dopamine system has been wiped out, there are more pink-starred glial cells (bad sign) and green-splodged alpha-synuclein clumps (also a bad sign).
The right column shows what happens in a Parkinson’s brain with daily exercise – you can now see that blue lines of the dopamine system have returned. Sure, it’s not as good as in a healthy brain, but it is an awful lot better than the no-exercise Parkinson’s brain in the middle column. The exercise treatment results in fewer pink stars and green splodges which is a very good thing.
Exercise is neuroprotective. Dopamine production is stimulated to continue for much longer if you exercise regularly.
Light and Parkinson’s
The second graphic shows the effect of photobiomodulation on the Parkinson’s brain:
The Left column shows what things look like in a healthy brain (no Parkinson’s) – same as before. You can see the dark blue lines of a normal dopamine system. You can see some green dots – these are another part of the dopamine system. All good.
The middle column again shows what Parkinson’s does to the brain – the dopamine system has been wiped out, with no dark blue lines and there are more pink-starred glial cells (bad). As well, there are some green dots showing that some bits of the dopamine system are hanging in, just.
The right column shows what happens in a Parkinson’s brain with photobiomodulation. The dopamine system has come back– sure it’s not as good as in a healthy brain, but it is an awful lot better than the unlit Parkinson’s brain in the middle column. The light generates more of the dopamine system with the return of dark blue lines and green dots. As well, there are fewer pink stars which is a very good thing.
Photobiomodulation with red and near infrared is neuroprotective. Dopamine production is stimulated to continue for much longer if you use a light hat daily. Photobiomodulation also provides neuroprotection to a range of other parts of the brain as well, which is why people using a light hat like the Coronet improve in the non -motor symptoms like fatigue, sleep, apathy, cognition depression and anxiety.
Raise a sweat and get the heart pumping…
Whether or not you have Parkinson’s, regular and good quality exercise (cranking up the heart rate in line with your doctor’s recommendations) does good things to your brain. If you have Parkinson’s the exercise is critical as it can make a huge difference in how fast the disease progresses. Aim to find a physiotherapist who specialises in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. You can even have Zoom consultations these days.
Whether or not you have a neurodegenerative disorder, regular transcranial photobiomodulation does good things to your brain. If you have Parkinson’s, it can make a huge difference in how fast the disease progresses.
If you aren’t convinced by the exercise or photobiomodulation arguments, then you should test both out for yourself. It’s easy – all you need is regular exercise and daily red/near infrared light. To save money, you can make your own DIY Cossack from the instructions on the blog. There’s even a movie.
You have nothing to lose – and your brain has everything to gain. A little bit of neuroprotective activity every day makes for a much better and happier brain.
* Run in the Light
Exploring Exercise and Photobiomodulation in Parkinson’s Disease
John Mitrofanis, Sydney Medical School
ISBN: 9781643277172 | PDF ISBN: 9781643277202
Hardcover ISBN: 9781643277219
Copyright © 2019 | 172 Pages