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    Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 4th World Parkinson Congress (WPC) in beautiful Portland, Oregon! It was a great conference filled with knowledge, art, and wonderful people. I had a marvelous time. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Since 2010, WPC has held a video competition where all members of the global Parkinson’s community can submit a video about their experiences living with, treating, researching, or caring for people with Parkinson’s. Here is this year’s winner - Lori Campbell’s video “Victory”:

  • You can view the other top 12 videos here.

    On Wednesday, September 21st my day started bright and early with lectures. One of the interesting “Hot Topic” lectures I went to was by David Leventhal of Dance for PD called “Moving Through Glass: Exploring Augmented Reality Technology for People with Parkinson’s”. In his study, his team used Google Glass to create a virtual reality app to take people through different exercise programs including a warm up, balance exercises, a simple walking program, and an unfreezing program. I got a chance to try out the technology for myself and it was pretty interesting:

  • In regards to the Moving Through Glass App, I liked the warm up and balance exercises but I thought that the walking program could cause too much visual interference when you were walking around and I would be concerned it could contribute to fall risk. I very politely suggested they consult with a physical therapist on future implementations :)

    The morning continued with lectures about Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). I found the lecture on DBS to be well balanced regarding the pro’s and con’s of DBS. The presenters did a good job emphasizing that DBS is most effective for helping with motor fluctuations such as increasing “on” times and decreasing “off” times and reducing dyskinesias and may also help with tremor. But when it comes to rigidity, akinesia, and especially gait and postural impairments, DBS is much less effective. Dr. Andres Lozano emphasized the importance for patients to understand that DBS is not as effective for addressing imbalance, postural instability, speech, cognitive problems, sleep, psychological symptoms, depression, bladder symptoms, constipation, sexual issues, and skin issues that can arise from Parkinson’s disease.

  • In the afternoon I attended lectures about optimizing daily living through physical, occupational, and speech therapy and a lecture on freezing of gait. The first lecture on optimizing daily living emphasized the importance of exercise and skilled practice, which I have discussed in great detail in past blog posts here, here, here, and here. For the freezing lecture, the biggest tip to stop a freezing of gait episode was offered by Dr. Simon Lewis who recommends focusing your attention on ONE THING when in a freeze which will allow you to unlock and start to move. So for example, you could focus on stopping, or focus on standing up tall, or focus on looking up. But by shifting your focus to ONE THING, that will help you regain control so you can then restart your movements. I will be writing a future blog post in great detail about freezing of gait, so stay tuned!

    That evening, I went to a networking event for physical therapists around the globe who work with people with Parkinson’s where we shared ideas and discussed  how to incorporate cognitive training into our exercise programs. It was awesome to be in a room with some of the top minds in the country - a truly inspiring experience!

  • (Image Caption: Quote reads "My diagnosis reminds me of a caterpillar spinning a cocoon. It thinks life is over but emerges as a butterfly. I felt that way but have become dedicated to leading a positive, full life. Victoria Miller, Age 61, USA, Living with Parkinson's". From Tree of Resilience, 4th World Parkinson's Congress, 2016)

  • On Thursday, September 22nd I went to more lectures (are you sensing a theme here?). The morning’s lectures focused on genetics and Parkinson’s disease. Some of the takeaway points included:

    • While some genes like GBA or LRRK2 have shown a more direct link to Parkinson’s disease (~30% of people with the gene develop Parkinson’s disease), people who have these genes make up a very small percentage of the total number of people who have Parkinson’s
    • Environment may modify genetic risk in Parkinson’s disease. An example would be pesticide use in Central Valley California - specifically paraquat and maneb were found to increased risk for Parkinson’s disease in humans.
    • Genetic testing should be considered a double edged sword and needs to include:
      • Prospective understanding of potential outcomes
      • Knowledgeable interpretation of results
      • Involvement of a third party for help with interpretation of results

    Wow, what a whirlwind and only a day and a half in! Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will share the rest of my 4th World Parkinson Congress adventure, starting with Thursday afternoon!

    Keep thriving,