Parkinson’s is a progressive disease caused by the abnormal clumping of a protein in brain cells, some of which produce a chemical called dopamine that plays a vital role in voluntary movement. These dopamine-producing cells then begin to die, leading to the onset of the hallmark symptoms of the disease—slowness, rigidity and tremor. Other non-motor symptoms, such as cognitive deficits, depression, sleep disorders, constipation and loss of sense of smell, are likely due to protein clumping in other brain regions and may appear years before the onset of movement-related issues. Scientists are still identifying the underlying cause of the disease, but believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work.
This infographic breaks down seven key terms that are important in Parkinson’s disease research.