New funding for Parkinson’s research

New funding for Parkinson’s research in Birmingham

12th October 2011

New research has started at Aston University to investigate how a small amount of a common sleeping tablet may be a new potential treatment for people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The research is funded by leading research charity Parkinson’s UK who has awarded Dr Ian Stanford a project grant of nearly £180,000.

Dr Stanford and his research team believe that the sleeping tablet zolpidem could potentially be used to make an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s, because of the effect it has on changing electrical rhythms in the brain.

Moving our bodies requires certain brain cells to use specific electrical rhythms and many people with Parkinson’s have difficulty with this.

The specific electrical rhythm that allows people to maintain posture and control movement, which is called a ‘beta’ rhythm, is different to the one that is used when people carry out movement like reaching out for a cup of tea. This is referred to as ‘gamma’ rhythm.

Previous research has shown that the levels of beta rhythm are increased in people with Parkinson’s. Giving low doses of zolpidem, has been shown to overcome the increased levels of beta rhythm, and importantly, to improve movement without major side effects. 

Dr Stanford adds: “All of the studies so far have been carried out on people with Parkinson’s who are already taking medication. We will investigate people who have been recently diagnosed with the condition and who have not yet started medication and give them a low dose of zolpidem. We will then investigate whether there is any correlation between changes in their brain rhythm and any improvement in their symptoms.

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Innovation at Parkinson’s UK adds: “The ultimate aim of this research is to develop a better treatment for Parkinson’s, help to make an earlier and more accurate diagnosis and reduce or delay the need for treatment with drugs such as levodopa. This will ensure that people receive the most effective treatment for their symptoms.

“This is just the kind of innovative research that Parkinson’s UK is committed to funding as we move ever closer to a cure.”

Media enquiries

Jill Davis on 020 7932 1335 Jdavis@parkinsons.org.uk or weekend and out of hours: 07961 460 248 or Louise Russell, Aston University on 0121 204 4637 or l.a.russell1@aston.ac.uk.

Notes to editors

Parkinson's UK: 120,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s. It is a progressive neurological condition for which there is currently no cure. Parkinson's UK currently support around 90 research projects totalling over £15million across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Every hour, someone in the UK is told they have Parkinson’s. Because we’re here, no one has to face Parkinson’s alone. We bring people with Parkinson’s, their carers and families together via our network of local groups, our website and free confidential helpline. Specialist nurses, our supporters and staff provide information and training on every aspect of Parkinson’s. As the UK’s Parkinson’s support and research charity we’re leading the work to find a cure, and we’re closer than ever. We also campaign to change attitudes and demand better services. Our work is totally dependent on donations. Help us to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson’s.