Download a PDF of Parkinson Canada Research Program Awards for the current cycle.
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Research Area: Treatment of Parkinson's
Understanding balance and walking in Parkinson’s disease
Stephanie Tran
PhD Student
University Health Network
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Poor balance and difficulty walking are among the toughest symptoms to reduce in people with Parkinson’s disease. At the University Health Network, PhD student Stephanie Tran studies the three major sensory systems involved in balance: sight, proprioception, and the vestibular system. She wants to learn how these systems interact and which are most affected by Parkinson’s. She hopes to use her new knowledge to create cues for people to improve balance.


Research Area: Causes
Modelling Parkinson’s disease
Cynthia Kwan
PhD Student
Montreal Neurological Institute
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Despite decades of research, there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease and no therapies that protect against it. At the Montreal Neurological Institute, PhD student Cynthia Kwan is developing an animal model to reproduce the progression of the disease and its symptoms. She’s using the model to follow the impact of a synthetic form of the protein alpha-synuclein on the brain, to see how it spreads and accumulates. She hopes the knowledge she gains will help researchers find a drug to stop the progression of Parkinson’s.


Research Area: Complications
Development of a clinical care pathway for apathy in understanding why personalities change for people with Parkinson’s
Bria Mele
PhD Student
University of Calgary
Funded by The Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

About 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease suffer from apathy, which means they lack passion and motivation and may not exhibit or feel strong emotions. Often, apathy is misdiagnosed and treated as depression, although the medications prescribed for depression may make their symptoms worse. At the University of Calgary, PhD student Bria Mele is developing a clinical tool so clinicians, caregivers and people with Parkinson’s can recognize and diagnose apathy and consider treatment options.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Improving memory, reasoning and judgment
Iman Beheshti
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Manitoba
Basic Research Fellowship
$100,000 over 2 years

As many as half of people with Parkinson’s disease eventually experience some degree of cognitive decline. At the University of Manitoba, Iman Beheshti, a postdoctoral fellow, is applying Transcranial Direct Caudate Stimulation (tDCS) to the part of the brain called the caudate nucleus. Beheshti hopes applying an electrical current to stimulate the caudate regularly during this two-year project will improve the cognitive abilities of people with Parkinson’s disease.


Research Area: Motor Control
Using non-invasive brain stimulation to unfreeze gait
Alexandra Potvin-Desrochers
PhD Student
McGill University
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience freezing of gait every day. Unfortunately, medication that reduces motor symptoms of this disease doesn’t usually help with freezing. At McGill University, PhD student Alexandra Potvin-Desrochers is investigating the connectivity between the regions of the brain involved in freezing. Her aim is to determine whether combining rTMS—repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation—with balance and gait training will reduce freezing and improve the daily lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.


Research Area: Treatment of Parkinson's
3D software to better stimulate the brain
Greydon Gilmore
PhD Student
Western University
Funded by The Lanka Charitable Foundation
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Deep brain stimulation acts as a “pacemaker for the brain” to reduce motor symptoms for people with Parkinson’s disease. At Western University, Greydon Gilmore, a PhD student, is creating software to map the brain to ensure surgeons place electrodes in exactly the right spot to help stimulate neurons. The 3D software will also enable neurologists to check after surgery to see if the electrodes are where they’re supposed to be and will enable better programming of the device to deliver maximum benefits to patients.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Pinpointing the connection between Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behaviour disorder
Jessie De Roy
PhD Candidate
Université du Québec à Montréal
Funded in partnership with Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé
Graduate Student Award
$10,000 over 2 years

More than a third of people with Parkinson’s disease also have REM sleep behaviour disorder, a potentially dangerous condition in which they act out their dreams. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, PhD student Jessie De Roy uses brain imaging and other tests to determine which areas of the brain this disorder affects. She hopes pinpointing any brain abnormalities associated with this condition, correlated with severe symptoms of Parkinson’s, will eventually lead to better treatments.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Putting assessment in the hands of patients
Dr. Babak Taati
Scientist
University of Toronto
Pilot Project Grant
$50,000 over 1 year

Babak Taati and Yana Yunusova of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are developing a software program that could run on hand-held electronic devices and regularly record information about a patient’s condition. The tool would significantly enhance the ability of clinicians and patients to track the course the disease and direct treatment accordingly.


Research Area: Biomarkers
Mood, meditation, and the autonomic nervous system
Dr. Chenjie Xia
Assistant Professor
McGill University
New Investigator Award
$90,000 over 2 years

At McGill University, Dr. Chenjie Xia, a neurologist and assistant professor, is studying the association between depression, anxiety and other mood disturbances in people with Parkinson’s disease, and their autonomic nervous systems. She hopes to demonstrate that association and then try to use mindfulness and other forms of meditation previously shown to regulate the autonomic nervous system to see if meditation will also improve mood.


Research Area: Causes
How toxic forms of alpha-synuclein get into these dopamine-producing brain cells
Armin Bayati
McGill University
Graduate Student Award
$20,000 over 2 years

Stopping the spread of toxic proteins before they kill the brain cells that control movement would revolutionize the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. At McGill University, PhD student Armin Bayati is investigating how a protein called alpha-synuclein enters neurons, and then how the toxic proteins spread to other cells. Clumps of alpha-synuclein kill the brain cells that produce dopamine, the signaling chemical that controls movement. Bayati’s research could provide a new target for Parkinson’s therapy.