UCL researcher awarded training fellowship
22 June 2009
Dr Ashwani Jha (UCL Institute of Neurology) has been awarded £170,000 from the Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS) for research into parts of the brain that are associated with specific symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease occurs when particular nerve cells die in the brain, making it increasingly difficult to relay messages between the parts that control movement.
Dr Jha will carry out the research with a group of 25 people with advanced Parkinson's disease. As part of the team working under Professor Peter Brown, he will measure the electrical activity on the surface of the brain. He will also look deep inside the brain by using surgically placed electrodes implanted for a treatment known as Deep Brain Stimulation. He will then investigate how the electrical signals vary within the group and how this may relate to individual symptoms.
Dr Jha commented: "This research should help us identify ways of providing new targeted treatments for individuals with Parkinson's disease, which will be a major step forward in our management of the condition."
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson's Disease Society added: "We know that the symptoms of Parkinson's, such as tremors and slowness of movement, can make life very difficult for people with the condition. The PDS is delighted to be funding Dr Ashwani's study."
Once the parts of the brain that are involved in specific symptoms have been determined, the findings will be tested using a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is a safe method where brief magnetic fields are used to de-activate brain cells temporarily without the need for surgery.
By creating disruptions in specific brain regions it may be possible to improve some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and help scientists understand which parts of the brain are responsible for them. This new research will provide an insight into why these symptoms may occur and help scientists to develop new treatments to overcome them.
The UCL Institute of Neurology is a specialist postgraduate institute of UCL. The institute is closely associated in its work with the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, UCL Hospitals' NHS Foundation Trust, and in combination they form a national and international centre at Queen Square for teaching, training and research in neurology and allied clinical and basic neurosciences. The UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing is an interdisciplinary centre of excellence for research on the biology of ageing and ageing-related diseases such as Parkinson's disease.