What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects about one million Americans, making it the second most common neurological disease in the U.S.
The area of the brain that regulates movement, called the substantia nigra (SN), has a concentration of cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine acts as a neurotransmitter, carrying signals to other parts of the brain to control movement. In Parkinson’s disease, these cells degenerate and produce less and less dopamine. When between 60% and 80% of these cells are damaged, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s appear, and the patient is increasingly unable to regulate movements and emotions.
Experts do not know what causes Parkinson’s. Most people do not develop the disease until they are 60 or older. It is possible that exposure to environmental toxins might be responsible, and some cases are hereditary.