by Darcy Blake | On September 9, 2014, Dr. J. William Langston, Parkinson’s Institute Founder, Chief Scientific Officer, and Movement Disorder Specialist spoke to a crowd of about 200 people at the Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale on a presentation titled More than Just a Movement Disorder.™
He began his talk with a candid confession about his five-year battle with cancer. People often ask if his medical ordeal has given him more empathy for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. “No,” he explained, “I have always had empathy for my patients, but having cancer has increased my admiration for the courage and strength of will in my patients with Parkinson’s Disease. You may not beat it, but you don’t let it beat you!”
On this occasion, he explained the onset of a complete change in how we think of Parkinson’s Disease. Recent studies are transforming medical opinion about the nature of the symptoms, future research and possibly the very name Parkinson’s Disease.
To set the stage for the presentation, Langston led the audience through an historic survey of Parkinson’s Disease that began two centuries ago with James Parkinson, a paleontologist, geologist, politician and physician who first identified Parkinson’s Disease in the 1800’s. Langston calls Parkinson “our ace clinician” for describing most all of the symptoms we are familiar with today.
Fritz Jacob Lewy, namesake for Lewy bodies continued research into the 1950s, followed by Greenfield, Carlsson, Hornykiewicz, Birmeyer, Horn, Cotzias and others who experimented with L-Dopa on themselves in the 1950s before prescribing it to patients. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery was introduced in the 1990s.
Langston’s paper The Parkinson’s Complex: Parkinsonism Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg elaborates on the current theory that Parkinson’s Disease, identified as being in the part of the brain called the Substantia Nigra, also affects many other parts of the body with symptoms that might include Depression, Dementia, REM Sleep Disorder, Olfactory (Smell) Dysfunction, Cardiac Sympathetic Denervation, and Constipation.
Langston concluded that we must look far beyond the current definition of Parkinson’s Disease. We might even think of changing the name to something like Multi System Parkinson’s Complex.
Quoting a favorite family phrase referring to their outings to Magic Mountain, Langston described the future of research for Parkinson’s Disease as “Hang on for the wildest world!” As long as we can avoid those dips, Dr. Langston, we’ll do our best to hang on for the ride!
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