Research Studies: Parkinson's and Related Disorders

Biomarkers for PD-related cognitive problems

Dr. Joanne Hamilton in the UC San Diego Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) is recruiting individuals with Parkinson’s disease-related cognitive problems and Dementia with Lewy bodies to take part in ongoing studies investigating biomarkers for and nonmotor symptoms of these diseases. Interested individuals should contact Christina Gigliotti, PhD, at 858-246-1243 for more information about these exciting opportunities. Link to Dr. Hamilton's publications

Brain Bank Donation Program

Dr. Irene Litvan has created a partnership between UC San Diego and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL to allow some Movement Disorder Center research participants the opportunity to receive a post-mortem brain autopsy and final diagnosis. For more information on the Brain Bank Program see our brochure. Interested individuals should contact Robin Ellam at 858-822-5751 for more information and to see if you qualify.

Clinical trial for PD with mild cognitive impairment

Dr. Irene Litvan is recruiting for a clinical trial to test an FDA approved drug for the treatment of Parkinson's disease in patients who also have mild cognitive impairment. This clinical trial will be a 24-week study to assess the effect of Azilect (the drug) on cognition in patients with Parkinson's disease. Subjects eligible for this study include men or women between 45 and 80 years of age with Parkinson's disease, mild cognitive impairment, and who are on stable dopaminergic therapy. For more information on this study, please contact Robin Ellam at 858-822-5751 or rellam@ucsd.eduLink to Dr. Litvan's publications

Related Publications:

  • MDS Task Force on Mild Cognitive Impairment in Parkinson's Disease: Critical Review of PD-MCI. See the pdf.
  • Annonacin in Asimina triloba fruit: Implication for neurotoxicity. See the pdf

Cognition in PD and related disorders

Dr. J. Vincent Filoteo’s group is conducting cross sectional and longitudinal studies of cognition (e.g., memory, attention, problem solving) in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and related disorders. Their goal is to better characterize the nature of neuropsychological and psychological changes in individuals with PD as well as identify novel predictors of future cognitive decline. Please contact Dr. Filoteo's research coordinator at 858-552-8585 ext 5593 if you are interested in participating, or if you would like to refer a patient to our study. Link to Dr. Filoteo's publications

Related Publications:

  • Prospective Memory Deficits are Associated with Poorer Everyday Functioning in PD. See the pdf.
  • Validation of the Modified Fatigue Impact Scale in Parkinson's Disease. See the pdf.
  • Implicit Category Learning Performance Predicts Rate of Cognitive Decline in Nondemented Patients With Parkinson's Disease. See the pdf.

Handwriting movements

Dr. Michael P. Caligiuri kinematic research studies of handwriting movements to identify writer-based sources of variability in signature authentication in movement disorders and dementia for forensic applications. Please contact Christina Gigliotti, PhD, at 858-246-1243 for more information about these exciting opportunities. Link to Dr. Caligiuri's publications.

Pilot Project to Improve Medical Monitoring

Dr. Irene Litvan is conducting a voluntary research study involving at-home wear of three wearable, comfortable, and subtle devices the size of a watch. This technology could allow physicians to wirelessly and continuously monitor patients' tremors and dyskinesias, improve accuracy of diagnosis, and alter treatment plans with greater ease and effectiveness. You might be eligible for this study if you have Parkinson's disease, are 40 years of age or older and have received levodopa therapy for at least 3 years. Interested individuals should contact Robin Ellam at 858-822-5751 for more information and to see if you qualify.

Pre-Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (Pre-PPMI)

The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) is a landmark observational study designed to help define biomarkers, or indicators of Parkinson's disease (PD) progression. PPMI has added a new arm to the existing study that will investigate certain risk factors of PD. By better understanding risk factors, such as smell loss, doctors may be able to identify people with Parkinson’s before the onset of motor symptoms. Early detection is a crucial step in understanding the causes of PD and developing better treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

The task of identifying risk factors for PD offers friends and family of people with Parkinson’s a unique role to play in Parkinson’s research. People who are over the age of 60 and who do not have Parkinson’s are needed for this study that will assess the relationship between Parkinson’s and sense of smell. Find out if you are eligible to participate by taking this smell survey or call (877) 525-PPMI. If you have Parkinson’s disease, we need your help to reach the 10,000 people without PD who may qualify. Invite family and friends to follow their noses to research that could make a difference for Parkinson’s research. UC San Diego is a site for this research study, and you may also contact Christina Gigliotti, Ph.D. at 858-246-1243 for additional information.

Using MRI to study cognitive changes

Dr. Deborah Harrington’s lab uses functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging to study the neural bases for cognitive changes in Parkinson’s disease. The goal is to identify early signatures of dysfunction in brain networks that support cognition and to explore individual differences in the risk for cognitive decline.  If you are interested in participating or would like to refer a potential volunteer, please contact Dr. Harrington’s research coordinator at 858-642-6392. Link to Dr. Harrington's publications

Using technology to study sensorimotor deficits in PD

Dr. Howard Poizner’s lab is using contemporary technologies for 3D motion analysis, robotics, and immersive virtual reality, in conjunction with noninvasive brain imaging (EEG), to examine the nature of the sensorimotor deficits in Parkinson's disease and the effects of drug versus surgical therapies in ameliorating these deficits.

Our goal is to better understand the functional roles of basal ganglia-cortical circuits in motor control and sensorimotor learning, and, in the process, to provide quantitative, objective assessments of motor dysfunction and specific effects of therapies. Find out about participating in our studies at the Poizner Lab website.