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Beat Parkinson's Today


For the Yale study, we enrolled people with early and mild Parkinson's Disease (PD) in the Beat Parkinson’s Today high-intensity exercise program 3 times per week for 6 months. Yale performed brain imaging using dopamine transporter (DaT) PET and neuromelanin (NM) MRI to measure the brain effects of exercise in the substantia nigra. Substantia nigra is the brain area that contains the dopamine-producing neurons and is affected in PD. The bar graphs show the increase in DaT and NM concentrations in the substantia nigra after exercise (averaged data obtained from 10 participants).This suggests that high-intensity exercise not only slowed down the neurodegenerative process, but also helped the dopaminergic system grow healthier.

The picture below shows the increase in DaT concentration after exercise in other brain areas also affected by PD in a single participant. Hot colors indicate higher DaT concentration.

Taken together, the findings of this study suggests that high-intensity exercise may have protective effects on the dopamine-producing neurons in PD. This highlights the importance of including an exercise regimen as part of one’s Parkinson’s treatment plan. 

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