Richmond, Va.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Researchers participate in World Parkinson Congress

Several projects presented by VCU faculty and staff

Friday, Oct. 11, 2013

More than 3,300 researchers, health care professionals and people with Parkinson’s disease and their families came together in a worldwide dialogue to discuss the multifaceted problems of Parkinson’s during the recent World Parkinson Congress in Montreal. Virginia Commonwealth University researchers presented several projects during the recent conference, which included representatives from 70 countries.

The event provides an opportunity for participants to propose solutions, including new approaches to Parkinson’s research, and to build innovative collaborations that ultimately lead to better treatment options for people with Parkinson’s.

Sarah Lageman, Ph.D., neuropsychology program director at the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center (PMDC) and assistant professor of neurology in the VCU School of Medicine, presented three research projects, including the initial results of her neurocognitive intervention and supportive therapy project funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

“Our preliminary results indicate that the neurocognitive intervention tailored for (Parkinson’s) was more beneficial for memory and mood than general supportive care for those with Parkinson’s disease and mild cognitive impairment,” said Lageman, who also presented research work she and her graduate students have completed on expressive writing and sleep and fatigue in Parkinson’s. “There was great interest in behavioral interventions for cognitive difficulties in (Parkinson’s) at the conference, given potential that these interventions can improve daily quality of life.”

Mark Baron, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the Southeast/Richmond Veteran’s Affairs Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center (PADRECC) at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, presented his collaborative work with Paul Wetzel, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering in the VCU School of Engineering, on eye-tremor tracking as a biomarker in Parkinson’s.

Their research findings in studying a group at high risk for Parkinson’s suggest that ocular tremor could serve as a highly accurate biomarker for the detection of preclinical Parkinson’s. Currently, there is no reliable test or imaging scan to test for Parkinson’s.

This work was chosen as one of four abstracts for presentation as a platform at the Parkinson’s Study Group symposium preceding the conference.

“Our research is showing that with a simple, rapid, non-invasive eye test, we can very accurately diagnose Parkinson’s as early as a decade or more before the onset of clinical motor symptoms,” Baron said. “We anticipate seeing this test in common use for screening people in the very near future.”

Andrea Perseghin,  associate director of Education and Outreach at the VCU PMDC, presented information about partnering with other community resources to capitalize on resources and bring programming to the general public. This presentation was co-authored by Lynn Klanchar, of the McGuire VA PADRECC.

“The World Congress conference provided many opportunities for researchers and patients and families to get together and make connections,” Perseghin said. “I really liked that aspect – it was exciting to see these conversations taking place.

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More than 3,300 participants from more than 70 countries gathered in Montreal for the World Parkinson Congress. Participants included researchers, health care professionals and people with Parkinson’s and their families.
Sarah Lageman (left), Ph.D., talks with Fred Woodlief, a member of the Richmond area Parkinson’s support group Movers and Shakers, during the poster presentations at the World Parkinson Congress.
Andrea Perseghin (left) and Lynn Klanchar present their work about partnering with other community resources during the World Parkinson Congress poster session.