Parkinson’s Disease, or ‘Parkinsonism’, is a chronic and progressive disorder that affects specific areas of the brain, causing damage to chemical balance of the brain. Its onset is very gradual and may not be noticeable in early stages, but the disease worsens progressively over its course. As many as one million people in the US alone are living with this debilitating disease.
So, what is it exactly?
There is an area in the brain called substantia nigra. Neurons of this area produce a neurotransmitter (a chemical) which transmits signals to different parts of the brain regarding the control and coordination of movements. This neurotransmitter is known by the name of dopamine. In Parkinson’s Disease, there is decreased production of dopamine due to damage of neurons in substantia nigra. Deficiency of dopamine weakens the signal for control and coordination of movement to different parts of brain, and therefore, the person becomes unable exact total control over the movements of his body. The disease starts with a barely noticeable tremor in one hand and gradually worsens to include other symptoms of the disease.
Why such damage occurs in neurons of substantia nigra?
The exact cause of substantia nigra neuronal damage leading to deficiency of dopamine is unknown as of now and is still being studied and researched.