A Timeline of Jay Alberts’ Parkinson’s Research

jay-alberts RAGBRAI - Davis Phinney Foundation

In 2003, on a bike ride with a friend, Dr. Jay Alberts noticed something that would go on to shape the next two decades of his life. During the multi-day, group ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI), Dr. Alberts pedaled a tandem bike with a friend with Parkinson’s and noticed that after a few days, his friend’s handwriting dramatically improved. “Initially, I thought that maybe our diet of pie and homemade ice cream was responsible for these improvements in motor function,” Dr. Alberts said in 2016. “Turns out it was neither the pie nor ice cream; it was riding the tandem that was making the difference.”

Since this discovery, Dr. Alberts and his colleagues have dedicated 17 years to studying the effects of exercise, primarily forced cycling, on motor and non-motor performance. Each project has inspired the next, and the research continually supports the belief that forced and high-intensity aerobic exercise improves motor function (and more) in people with Parkinson’s. Let’s take a look at how the research has unfolded.

Dr. Alberts notices during a group bike ride that after pedaling a tandem bike with him, his friend with Parkinson’s experienced dramatic improvement in her handwriting. This discovery propels Dr. Albert's research about forced-exercise’s impacts on motor functioning.
Dr. Alberts uses grant funding from the Davis Phinney Foundation to study the effects of exercise on cognitive and motor functioning in a group of people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Results suggested that aerobic exercise has a strong potential to slow the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms in individuals not yet treated with anti-Parkinson’s medications.
As lead researcher for a clinical trial called CYCLE, Dr. Alberts and his research team began comparing the effects of forced exercise cycling on motor and non-motor performance compared to voluntary rate cycling and a non-exercise control group. Results showed that an eight-week, high-intensity aerobic exercise program markedly enhances overall motor function, certain aspects of walking, and cognitive function in people with Parkinson’s.
Using grant funding from the Davis Phinney Foundation, Dr. Alberts examines dual tasking—the simultaneous performance of two attention-demanding tasks—and Parkinson’s. This study uses a virtual reality assessment to improve motor and non-motor function in people with Parkinson’s.
Dr. Alberts and his colleague Dr. Anson Rosenfeldt receive a grant for a two-year study on the effectiveness of Pedaling For Parkinson’s—an existing, low-cost community cycling class—and how participation in the class may slow Parkinson's progression. Moving from the lab to "real life" is a big step toward increasing access to classes so even more people can live well with Parkinson's.
Dr. Alberts receives a $3M National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study the impact of exercise on Parkinson’s. This project builds on data recorded in the CYCLE study, measuring the effectiveness of a long-term CYCLE protocol in a home-based setting. Dr. Alberts and his research team will use performance data from this research to determine whether a certain level of exercise can slow Parkinson’s progression.
Data from Dr. Alberts’ and Dr. Rosenfeldt's most recent study indicates that cycling may be an ideal mode of exercise for people with Parkinson’s because regardless of disease severity, individuals can achieve and maintain a moderate to high intensity of exercise. Additionally, the study’s compliance data highlights several important points, including that people with Parkinson’s regularly attend community-based cycling classes without external encouragement, and they can achieve and maintain moderate levels of exercise intensity without direct oversight. 

How can you use Dr. Alberts’ findings to live well today? 

Stay active. Studies like Dr. Alberts’ continually show that regular exercise can have significant benefits for people living with Parkinson’s. Find exercises you enjoy and strive to get your heart rate up most, if not all, days of the week.  

Want more information on how exercise can help you live well with Parkinson’s?  

How to Exercise & Live Better with Parkinson’s with Dr. Jay Alberts 

Exercise is Medicine for the Brain 

High-Intensity Exercise Helps Slow the Progression of Parkinson’s 

How a Bicycle Ride Led to Ground-Breaking Parkinson’s Research
Community-Based Cycling Class for Slowing Disease Progression 

Brain Training: Effects of Aerobic Exercise in Parkinson’s Disease 

The Effect of Forced-Exercise Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease on Motor Cortex Functional Connectivity 

Pedaling For Parkinson’s

how can you help support research like This? 

The Davis Phinney Foundation’s mission is to help people with Parkinson’s live well today; therefore, each year, we support research projects that align with that mission. New therapies that improve quality of life are waiting to be discovered.

Your generous gift today to our Quality of Life Research Fund will help our Science Advisory Board say “yes” to more promising research projects that have the potential to change people’s lives.


Dr. Jay Alberts is the Biomedical Engineer & Vice Chair of Clinical Transformation, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Concussion Center. He’s a Principal Investigator within the Functional Electrical Stimulation Center of Excellence at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center. And he also holds an appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. Prior to joining the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Alberts was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physiology at Georgia Institute of Technology. 

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