Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common illnesses that can affect a person’s brain. These types of diseases are referred to as neurodegenerative because they cause death to the cells that make up the brain and therefore impair its function. The part of the brain most affected by Parkinson’s disease is a region called the substantia nigra, the part of the brain responsible for making dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical released by the brain, also called a neurotransmitter, that plays a major role in controlling the body’s movements. When these cells are killed by Parkinson’s disease, the body is unable to maintain control of its movements which is the reason patients with Parkinson’s disease tend to have tremors, bradykinesia, and dyskinesia, characteristic indicators of Parkinson’s disease.
Location of Substantia Nigra (dopamine producing cells) and maps of pathways involving dopamine
Chemical Structure of Dopamine
There is no single cause for Parkinson’s disease, but rather can be caused fom random changes, called mutations, to a person’s DNA or even can be attributed to inheriting genes that are predisposed to cause Parkinson’s from your parents. Despite the unknown causes of the disease, there are several different treatments being used to treat the symptoms of the disease even though there is currently no cure. Some of the methods used are medications that target different steps of the pathway that leads to the death of the dopaminergic cells and shortage of dopamine. Since dopamine is deficient, treatments try to increase dopamine in the brain in a few different ways. Some add more chemicals that can be made into dopamine whereas others reduce the breakdown of existing dopamine. No one treatment is necessarily more beneficial for patients than another and all options should be discussed with a doctor before beginning treatment.