Parkinson's researchers whose projects were funded by the Parkinson Canada Research Program
The Parkinson Canada Research Program has funded groundbreaking projects such as those by Dr. Philippe Huot (left), Johannes Frasnelli (center), and Dr. Naomi Visanji (right)

Hope Through Research


Research holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of Parkinson’s. Scientific excellence and the courage of both researchers and participants are vital to the search for treatments and a cure.

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, since , the Parkinson Canada Research Program has invested more than $32 million in funding for research, encompassing more than 600 awards, fellowships, and grants. As a donor, you become an investor in early-stage, novel ideas in Parkinson’s research, amongst others. When pilot projects and new investigators receive enough funding to proceed, a concept is validated and eligible for additional funding from other agencies. Areas of focus include the complications of Parkinson’s, cognitive impairment, biomarkers, neuroprotection, and quality of life research.

How Research Grants are Awarded

You may have wondered how the research dollars you fundraise for Parkinson’s are allocated; let’s explore that process. Parkinson Canada funds many different levels of research, including:

  • Innovative Canadian research by established and promising investigators
  • Discovery stage research where investigators test new theories and pursue promising leads
  • Research that fosters the next generation of scientists by funding researchers at the start of their careers
  • Novel research that builds research capacity, engagement, and promotes creativity

The research studies we fund span a diversity of Parkinson’s-related topics as researchers seek to find better treatments, improve quality of life, build capacity by supporting specialized training for doctors, and contribute to collective understanding on a global scale.

In last month’s Parkinson Post, we shared an update on the Research and Clinical Advisory Committee (RCAC). This newly formed committee is responsible for advising the Board of Directors on the state of Parkinson’s research, clinical care, and emerging trends relevant to the Parkinson’s community. The RCAC also oversees Parkinson Canada’s Research Program and recommends research funding to the Board.

The review of applications for research grants and training awards is completed by the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC), composed of prominent neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroscientists, and other specialists from across the country, as well as people impacted by Parkinson’s. This peer review function is the cornerstone of the Parkinson’s research program and provides the highest quality of objective adjudication. Many funding applications are received, then ranked in order of priority based on scientific excellence potential and the relevance of the proposed research or training to Parkinson’s.

Research Grant Highlights

With more than 15 projects selected by the SAC in the latest round of funding, below are two exciting projects that provide insight into the broad scope of research areas we fund. Each of these studies may provide real hope in the form of improved quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.

Doctor Jean-Francois Nankoo

Doctor Jean-Francois Nankoo

The first study, being carried out by Dr. Jean-Francois Nankoo (University Health Network), is in the research area of Parkinson’s treatment. A common and particularly disabling symptom of Parkinson’s is freezing of gait (FOG), which many living with Parkinson’s have experienced. FOG significantly reduces quality of life and responds poorly to available treatments. Emerging evidence suggests that FOG is associated with overactivity in the cerebellum, deep in the brain, which is involved in movement coordination, posture, and balance. This study will investigate, for the first time, the use of a novel form of brain stimulation from focused ultrasound to normalize brain activity and reduce FOG. Over the next two years, Dr. Nankoo’s study will provide crucial information in potentially establishing a new, non-invasive treatment for this challenging Parkinson’s symptom.

Esztella Vezer

Esztella Vezer

Another two-year study, led by Ms. Esztella Vezer (Ryerson University – Yeates School of Graduate Studies), focuses on the relationship between Parkinson’s severity and quality of life, particularly the role of social functioning. The study aims to better understand the complex relationship between the severity of Parkinson’s and the influence of two factors – the social support they receive and how much they take part in social activities. The findings of this study might help identify ways of improving the quality of life of people living with more severe symptoms of Parkinson’s without changing the symptoms themselves.

As research and clinical fellowships begin and the work of the researchers, healthcare professionals, and graduate students whose research projects were funded moves forward, we are excited about the potential for knowledge and the promise that many of them hold for improved treatments and quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s. We will keep you informed of the breakthroughs that we hope they all make, thanks to your generous funding and involvement.

One Comment on “Hope Through Research”

  1. I don’t see any research being done on pain. Pain is just as debilitating as the tremors or unsteadiness. Pain tends to drive one a little crazy. Let me describe some of what I go through. The muscles snap like rubber bands, it literally takes your breath away.

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