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Parkinson’s disease also affects patient’s sense of touch and vision

Thursday October 26, 2006

10/19/06(ZEENEWS.COM) - Although Parkinson’s disease (PD) is most commonly understood as a movement disorder, scientists have found that the disease also causes widespread abnormalities in touch and vision Ð effects.

Scientists at the Emory University School of Medicine and Zhejiang University Medical School in Hangzhou China have verified abnormalities in touch and vision by using magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain.

Although scientists studying Parkinson’s disease (PD) previously have focused on the brain’s motor and premotor cortex, they haven’t looked at the somatosensory or the visual cortex.

But Emory neurologist Krish Sathian, MD, PhD, and colleagues had earlier discovered, through tests of tactile ability, that PD patients have sensory problems with touch.

They designed a study using fMRI to investigate the brain changes underlying these sensory abnormalities.

After conducting a number of fMRI scans of people suffering with Parkinson’s disease, it was found that that the PD patients had much less activation of the somatosensory areas in the brain’s cortex than did the healthy controls.

"Our finding that the visual cortex is affected in Parkinson’s disease, while surprising, makes sense given that our laboratory and many others have shown previously that areas of the brain’s visual cortex are intimately involved in the sense of touch," Dr. Sathian said.

"Although the reasons for this are uncertain, they may involve a process of mental visualization of the tactile stimuli and may also reflect a multisensory capability of the visual cortex," he added.

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