Just this morning I finished reading Jon Palfreman’s highly accessible 2015 book, Brain Storms – The Race to Unlock the Mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease. I wrote the following review of it for my Goodreads book shelf.
Thank you to whoever recommended this book – not sure if it was Palfreman’s opinion article The Bright Side of Parkinson’s in the NY Times Sunday Review or Dance for PD. I am glad to have found and read it.
Palfreman writes with grace and with a story teller’s eye, demystifying the complexities of brain science and pharmaceuticals. He traverses the history of Parkinson’s research all the way from its initial discovery by James Parkinson to the many scientists currently working on myriad approaches to preventing, curing and reversing the disease.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any connection to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or any of the other neurodegenerative diseases that abound. I found myself breathing a curious sigh of relief just knowing that there are so many people who are trying to resolve these diseases, and there are many more people trying to live with these diseases. My Dad was one of them, with the double whammy of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Not knowing what my future will hold, I take solace and advice from books like this one. And I leave you with two of the most interesting facts that Palfreman shares.
How a person with Parkinson’s chooses to live may be as crucial to his well-being as which medicines he takes. Research supports the idea that patients who exercise regularly (as I explored in chapter 7) and who keep a positive attitude and remain socially and mentally engaged do much better than those who withdraw from the world. Whether this is because of the neuroprotective effects of exercise and engagement or a robust placebo effect is still to be determined.
Everything, and I mean everything that I have ever read about promoting a healthy aging brain states the same results: EXERCISE and SOCIALIZE. And engage in novel, challenging activities.
The second highly interesting fact that Palfreman mentions is the placebo effect, which I find amazing and suggestive of the human power of optimism and determination. Hmm, those last two sound like the “positive attitude” noted in the first interesting fact!
It turns out that many times people who received a placebo, instead of some of the actual treatments described in the book, wound up having a positive effect that often lasted for a considerable amount of time. The questions this raises are twofold – Why can placebos be as powerful or more powerful than actual treatment? And what does this mean for certain invasive treatments if the placebo can do as much or more good than the invasive surgery?
…the Rush University neuroscientist Christopher Goetz mentioned in an update to the Parkinson’s community the intriguing and somewhat controversial topic of the placebo effect… Goetz the clinical neurologist believes it is an effect worth keeping. As he puts it, “I use the placebo effect when I greet my patients, when I encourage them, when I tell them we’re a partnership… [I] would never want to eliminate it in the clinic.” But Goetz the scientist sees the placebo effect as a liability. “In a trial, if the patient gets just as good effect with sham surgery as having some kind of foreign cell implanted, then we have a problem.” That’s the conundrum in a nutshell.