Western University – Brain Bank – Dr. Jog – $59,000 (2-year commitment of $96,000)

Brain banks are key resources that promote translational research by providing an interface between personal donation and laboratories. They function to collect, catalogue and preserve neurological tissue, with the intent to distribute and study, while adhering to guidelines.  Ultimately, this may have implications for future personalized treatment strategies for Parkinson’s Disease.

Graduate Student Scholarship – $50,000

Erind Alushaj – Western

My research focuses on using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to uncover changes in the brain related to Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, we are interested in changes that are present before the appearance of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. These changes are called preclinical biomarkers. This would ultimately have major implications for how we diagnose, treat and manage Parkinson’s Disease.

Daryn Cushnie-Sparrow – Western

Approximately 70% of individuals with Parkinson’s disease will develop speech impairments, and one of the most common speech symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease is hypophonia (quiet speech). Hypophonia can make it harder for someone to be understood and disrupts communication in many social contexts. Speech therapy can be temporarily effective in Parkinson’s Disease, but many individuals have difficulty transferring improvements in speech intensity from the clinic into their daily life. This study is innovative in three ways: 1) long-term speech recording in everyday contexts will provide greater insight into the typical speech intensity, noise levels and SNR of daily life that people with PD face, 2) there are currently no devices that provide portable, real-time SNR feedback, and 3) the device directly targets the transfer-of-treatment problem by delivering training in everyday life.

Michael Tauro – Western

Alpha-synuclein (aSyn) was the first Parkinson’s Disease-causing protein to be identified over 20 years ago. Despite the relatively extensive history of aSyn-related research, how aSyn causes toxicity in neurons, and by extension Parkinson’s Disease, remains unknown. Fortunately, much evidence has recently come to light regarding aSyn’s interference with cellular mechanisms. With the cause of aSyn-induced toxicity uncovered, future studies will have clear targets to aim at when researching treatments or cures to aSyn-related Parkinson’s Disease.

Western University – Dr. Jeff Holmes – $20,000

Given that Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive condition with no known cure, individuals experience declining function over time, and often require assistance from family members as the disease progresses. It is widely acknowledged that family members, commonly referred to as informal caregivers, play a vital role in the care of people with Parkinson’s, providing social, physical, and psychological support over an extended period of time. Given these findings, the overarching goal of the proposed research is to gain a current understanding of the unique burden and unmet support needs experienced by caregivers of individuals with Parkinson’s in Southwestern Ontario, and to identify the current availability (or lack thereof) of resources to support this at risk population. To achieve this, the current research aims to: i) explore the psychosocial implications and lived experience of Parkinson’s in a day-to-day context from the perspective of caregivers, and ii) locate resources that are currently available to support Parkinson’s caregivers.