This continues the series of article on actionable symptom mitigation for Parkinson's Disease, begun in
which aim to explore current scientific findings on PD, and then determine the pragmatic applications which arise from these, which may help diminish symptoms and/or delay disease progression.
Brain Frequency Modulation
Many people with PD (PwP), and caregivers will also be well aware of this, often encounter an almost constant chatter of busy thoughts in their own heads. This inner voice can speak in undertones of self-doubt and guilt, but also can be constantly seeking to blame others, marshalling arguments and self-justifications. These thoughts can go round and round like a tape stuck on a loop, and be very difficult to break out of. Indeed, PwP can become irritable when someone seeks to interrupt these thoughts. These anecdotal experiences have now been backed by science too. A recent article in "Nature",
"But these [healthy brainwave] oscillations can become disrupted in certain disorders. In Parkinson’s disease, for example, the brain generally starts to show an increase in beta waves in the motor regions as body movement becomes impaired. In a healthy brain, beta waves are suppressed just before a body movement. But in Parkinson’s disease, neurons seem to get stuck in a synchronized pattern of activity. This leads to rigidity and movement difficulties. Peter Brown, who studies Parkinson’s disease at the University of Oxford, UK, says that current treatments for the symptoms of the disease — deep-brain stimulation and the drug levodopa — might work by reducing beta waves."
Low amplitude beta waves with multiple and varying frequencies are often associated with active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration. So it seems not only that the anecdotal experiences of incessant self-talk in the heads of PwP are supported by brain wave activity measurements, but also that the science is pointing to these abnormal busy thoughts being largely responsible for our motor symptoms, because they suppress movement in the body!
The above suggests pragmatic solutions, as well as providing an explanation for why exercise (movement therapies) are so important in the treatment of PD - since, conversely, pushing through movement should suppress the abnormal beta frequency activity and calm the mind, which in turn leads to more unblocking of movement. Thus motion itself can help break the vicious brain-body circle.
The Nature article cited above also covers various other brainwave frequency states, and so practical symptom reduction may be achieved by seeking to put the brain into one of these other states, thus down-regulating the beta frequencies, and hence unblocking movement.
These other states include:
Many PwP with suffer from insomnia, and continue to have busy thoughts all through the night. Insufficient sleep is terrible for anyone's health, but in particular it is particularly detrimental to those of us with chronic illness. It appears that the incessant beta waves block access to the "delta wave" states of deep sleep. On the other hand, it is interesting when observing PwP, when we do manage to achieve this state, most of our symptoms disappear. Therefore it is mission critical for PwP to improve their sleep and fix their broken circadian rhythm, by any means they can.
Wakeful rest and meditative states
Meditation and relaxational methods have been shown to be so beneficial in delaying the progression of PD. The above explains why: these also kick the brain out of the abnormal beta frequency ranges, thus down-regulating symptoms . Exercises like walking and jumping can create meditative "theta" brain wave states too, apparently. Music therapy can also be very helpful here.
Visual consciousness and multi-sensory activity.
PwP may also find that activities which require high levels of attention, especially hand eye co-ordination, can reduce symptoms, and this is why PwP anecdotally benefit from art and craft therapies, doing jigsaws, coloring in, join the dots exercises and so forth. These activities up-regulate the "gamma" brain frequencies. It also gives credence to a story which appeared in the press recently, about a man who overcame his PD through very persistent carving of chess pieces. I have myself anecdotally reported on how when reading illustrated novels (of the type shown in the photograph below) or playing solataire with cards, whilst I continue to engage in these visually intensive activities, my symptoms are reduced and I can sometimes often miss a does of medication while performing them.
One further point, in relation to the prior article on Diet and Nutrition. I have found that specific foods and supplements can have massive effects on the level of chatter in my mind and how easily I can switch this off. Some foods can very greatly exacerbate this, while other choice can really help to keep my mind quite. Identifying the foods and supplement which impact on the level beta brainwaves for ourselves is also a crucial step.