Improved treatment for Parkinson’s on the way

Professor Winston Byblow

Professor Winston Byblow

CBR member Professor Winston Byblow is the recent recipient of a grant from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.  His research aims to develop behavioural tests and identify genetic markers which may be used in future to indicate whether or not a patient with Parkinson’s is a good candidate for dopamine agonist medication, and is entitled: Falling off the curve: the link between impulsivity and dopamine.

Dopamine agonists, which mimic the action of dopamine upon its specific receptors, are a mainstay of the treatment regimen for Parkinson’s disease, and lead to significant improvements in quality of life for the majority of patients.  However, like all medications, they have side effects, and these manifest in different ways in different people.  For some people (10-20%), side effects include the development of impulse control disorders such as gambling addiction, hypersexuality, and compulsive spending.

The possibility for these side effects to occur in patients receiving dopamine agonist therapy was noted about a decade ago, but at that time scientists were not able to tell whether or not the affected patients had any particular features which made them especially vulnerable to developing compulsive behaviour disorders.  Later studies have suggested that this sub-population may have a particular profile, and Professor Byblow’s study aims to further identify this, and develop a tool for clinicians to make good prescribing choices for their patients in future.

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