Research Studies: Parkinson's and Related Disorders

Creation of Stem Cells from Patients with Familial PD

The UCSD Movement Disorder Center is conducting a study to learn more about the Genetics of familial Parkinson disease by using skin cells from affected individuals to be transformed into pluripotent stem cells and ultimately into neurons genetically identical to patients.  We are currently seeking volunteers with either a known genetic mutation of Parkinson’s disease (e.g., LRRK2) and/or have a known family history of Parkinson’s disease. Non-UCSD patients will first need to be seen by a UCSD Movement Disorder Specialist to confirm the diagnosis and medical history. Participation will include a single skin biopsy and blood draw at our offices in La Jolla. For more information, please call (858) 822-MOVE or email

Assessing Falls in Parkinson's disease and other Movement Disorders

Dr. Irene Litvan is recruiting for a research study to validate a wearable multi-modal system in patients with an increased risk of falling. This technology could allow physicians to monitor and understand what causes certain patients to fall. Participation will consist of one study visit and two at home sessions with the multi-modal monitoring system. Patients with movement disorders may qualify for this study if they are over 50 years of age and have a history of falls. For more information please contact (858) 822-MOVE or email

Not currently enrolling

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 (858) 822-MOVE or email for more information and to see if you qualify.

Clinical trial for Early PD

Dr. Irene Litvan is recruiting for a clinical trial to test an FDA approved drug for the treatment of early Parkinson’s disease. This clinical trial will be a three year long study to test Isradipine's (the drug) efficacy in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Subjects eligible for this study include men and women over 30 years of age who are currently not taking dopaminergic medications and have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease for less than 3 years. Interested individuals should contact (858) 822-MOVE or email for more information and to see if you qualify.

Now Enrolling

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.

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.