The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s

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Parkinson’s is complicated. Everyone who lives with it presents with their own unique set of symptoms, and they treat it with their own unique blend of medications, interventions and behaviors. However, even if it shows up differently for everyone, what’s going on in their brain is similar. 

In this episode, you will learn: 

  • What causes Parkinson’s
  • The symptoms that guide a clinical diagnosis
  • What it’s like to be a care partner for someone living with Parkinson’s
  • The genetics of Parkinson’s
  • New research about the link between the gut and Parkinson’s


  • 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s
  • Four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50 – called Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD)
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely than women to be diagnosed
  • Parkinson’s diagnosis is assessed on four primary motor symptoms
    • resting tremor
    • rigidity
    • bradykinesia
    • loss of postural stability
  • By the time motor symptoms appear, most people have lost 80% of the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra
  • Fifteen percent of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of it
  • From a genetics standpoint, Parkinson’s can be caused by mutations in the LRRK2, PARK7, PINK1, PRKN, or SNCA gene
  • New research is looking into the relationship between the gut and Parkinson’s
  • Levodopa is the gold standard medication for those living with Parkinson’s

Concepts Mentioned in this Podcast & Further Reading

Kelsey Phinney - The Parkinson's Podcast

Kelsey Phinney’s dad, Davis Phinney, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when she was around five years old. She has been interested in learning more about the brain and ways to help people living with Parkinson’s ever since. Kelsey graduated from Middlebury College in 2016 with a degree in Neuroscience. She uses her studies, her life experience and the interviews she conducts with experts to inform her new podcast series with us called The Parkinson’s Podcast™. She currently splits her time between Vermont, Colorado and on the road as a professional cross-country skier with hopes of making the next Olympics. Learn more about Kelsey at

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