Prescribing exercise as a treatment for Parkinson's disease
Matthew Sacheli, PhD student, University of British Columbia
Scientific title: Investigating the therapeutic mechanisms of exercise interventions for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease
Neuroscientist Matthew Sacheli was working as a personal trainer to help put himself through university when he noticed that one of his patients, who had Parkinson's disease, had fewer symptoms when engaging in calisthenics and resistance training.
That experience inspired Sacheli, now a graduate student in neuroscience at the University of British Columbia, to marry his love of sports and exercise with research into exactly why exercise helps people with Parkinson's disease. Although doctors and researchers have learned that dance, Tai Chi, or other forms of exercise reduce both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's, they don't know how frequently or how intensely people need to exercise to get the benefits, or precisely what part of the brain exercise stimulates to effect these changes.
By correlating the data from the two, Sacheli hopes to pinpoint the brain structures that exercise affects. Eventually, he hopes doctors will be able to write accurate prescriptions for the kind and type of exercise people require to improve their symptoms. Sacheli's goal is to inspire a more holistic approach to treating Parkinson's disease.
“The future of clinical care is a multiple and comprehensive health approach, especially for a complex disease like Parkinson’s disease,” he says.