Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Porter Hall 223-D
Carnegie Mellon University

Life styles and brain health: Exercise and Parkinson's disease

Presenter: Michael Zigmond, Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurobiology at the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Pittsburgh, and Director of the Morris K. Udall Center of Excellence in Parkinson's Disease Research

The United States reportedly has one of the highest predicted life expectancies in the world based on socioeconomic factors and health care expenditures, yet it has among the lowest in actual life expectancy. Why? The answer is undoubtedly complex, but almost certainly includes the American life style, which often involves a generally poor diet, low levels of social interaction, and little to no exercise. (According to one figure, Americans walk an average of 350 yards a day!) Our research group has been focusing on one of these variables – exercise – and its importance to brain health. Using animal and cellular models of Parkinson’s disease, we are examining the hypothesis that exercise increases the resiliency of neurons to cellular stress and thereby reduces the incidence and progression of the disease. In this seminar, I will briefly describe the symptoms and pathology of Parkinson’s disease, focusing on the loss of dopamine neurons that is responsible for the motor deficits that accompany the disease. Then I will present animal studies showing that exercise can protect dopamine neurons from toxins that normally kill these neurons. Finally, I will describe studies of animals and cell cultures designed to uncover the mechanism of exercise-induced neuroprotection. In the future I wish to begin to ask why many people make unhealthy decisions regarding life style issues such as exercise, and what might be done to change that situation. In presenting our current work to you, I wish to introduce myself in the hope that establishing a dialogue with this community can be of assistance to me as I take this new direction.


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