Funded research projects
Parkinson's Victoria has supported a number of ongoing and recent research projects.
Current Projects funded by Parkinson's Victoria
There is growing evidence that physical activity is neuroprotective and may have the capacity to slow the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
ParkinDance is a two-year, randomised control trial is looking at the specific dose of physical activity, in the form of dance, needed to have a positive benefit on the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
This collaborative research project with La Trobe University is being led by internationally-recognised physiotherapist and researcher, Professor Meg Morris and commenced in February 2019 with the first group of participants.
An additional benefit of this trial will be guidelines to develop ongoing safe and accessible dance-based exercise programs for Victorians living with Parkinson’s.
ParkinDance has been generously supported by the Pratt Foundation and community fundraising led by Isa Adams.
An additional benefit of this trial will be the establishment of guidelines to develop ongoing safe and accessible dance-based exercise programs for Victorians living with Parkinson’s.
UPDATE: The next clinical trial being held as part of this reserarch will focus on people with Young Onset Parkinson's. Register your interest now.
Designing Evidence-Based exercise Programs for people living with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)
In 2018, Dr Susan Slade, Senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University, commenced a research project aimed at broadening our understanding of factors that may influence participation in exercise and physical activity by people living with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP).
The project was funded through the Argyrou Family and Atypical Fellowship, awarded at Parkinson’s Victoria’s 2018 Insearch lecture series.
It looked at identifying the barriers and enablers to participation in exercise therapy and physical activity for people living with PSP.
In 2019-20, Parkinson’s Victoria funded Dr Slade and Professor Meg Morris to for an extension of this project to allow for:
- extended data collection to achieve a larger number of neurologists, therapists and patients
- publication of two new manuscripts on the focus group results in peer reviewed international journals
- data collection for a new element of the project led by Prof. Morris: worldwide clinical guidelines for exercise and physical activity in PSP
- development of information resources brochures for people living with PSP including exercise and physical activity recommendations.
Victorian Brain Bank Network
Parkinson’s Victoria continues to support the Victorian Brain Bank Network (VBBN), auspiced by Melbourne University and the Mental Health Research Institute.
The VBBN collects and supports brain donation which provides vital tissue samples supporting research into Parkinson’s and Atypical Parkinson’s throughout the Asia-Oceanic region.
From 1 July 2018 – 30 June 2019 the Brain Bank collected, processed and stored 48 new brain donations, 11 cases were confirmed neuropathologically as either Parkinson’s or Atypical Parkinson’s.
Eight new or continuing Australian and international research projects have applied and been granted access to Parkinson’s-related tissues, quantifiable by the provision of 340 diseased and control brain samples.
Parkinson’s Victoria’s funding helps support some of the direct costs associated with the collection of Parkinson’s (and related diseases) cases, including the cost of transfers from regional areas, allowing regional donors the opportunity to contribute to research.
Past Projects funded by Parkinson’s Victoria
UPDATE DECEMBER 2020.
Parkinson’s Victoria has welcomed publication of a study adding to the body of evidence showing the advantages of using a wearable, continuous objective measurement system to monitor and manage motor symptoms affecting people with Parkinson's.
The results were published in November in Nature Partners Journal - Parkinson’s Disease, an international journal devoted to publishing important scientific advances in Parkinson's disease research.
The controlled clinical trial of objective measurement in Parkinson’s disease compared outcomes of routine clinical management to clinical management aided by the wearable Personal KinetiGraph® (PKG®) in 200 participants.
Professor Malcolm Horne, of The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and inventor of the PKG®, led the research project, which was funded by Parkinson’s Victoria, Michael J Fox Foundation, Shake it Up Australia and an in-kind grant from Global Kinetics Corporation, which produces the PKG®
The technology collects data from a logger, worn like a watch, providing continuous quantitative data on movement disorder symptoms including tremor, bradykinesia (slow movement) and dyskinesia (abnormal or impaired movement) in a non-clinical setting.
This allows doctors to objectively monitor motor symptoms to assess whether a person with Parkinson's has appropriate treatment and to judge the effect of changes to therapy at subsequent visits.
The study reported “statistically significant improvements” in the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale - a common measurement of PD outcomes - compared to standard of care management.
Prof. Horne said the study was an important addition to the body of evidence showing that there were improved outcomes when the management of symptoms affecting people with Parkinson’s was aided by a continuous objective measurement system.
The Treat to Target clinical trial was funded in 2018. Parkinson’s Victoria provided $127,000 towards this landmark research project in 2017-18 and promoted the clinical trial to the Victorian Parkinson’s community. At the end of December 2018, 55 Victorians had taken part.
Parkinson’s Victoria has contributed to the body of evidence for ParkinSong™, through our involvement in ParkinSong™: A Controlled Trial of Singing-Based Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease, published in the Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair Journal in May 2019.
ParkinSong™ is an activity-based peer support program involving vocal warm-up and exercise, practical communication activities, group singing and social engagement that commenced in Williamstown in 2013 with the support of Parkinson’s Victoria.
The research trial found ParkinSong™ participants made a statistically significant improvement in:
• vocal intensity (voice loudness)
• maximum expiratory pressure (respiratory strength)
• voice-related quality of life (more positive perceptions about their voice and communication).
The study was conducted in 2015-16, funded by the Hugh Williamson Foundation, Parkinson’s Victoria and Melbourne University.
In a controlled trial, a proportion of the 75 participants attended ParkinSong™ and the control participants attended other groups such as regular Parkinson’s Peer Support groups, Tai Chi groups, dancing groups or Painting with Parkinson’s groups.
Benefits were evident at the 3-month point of the study and maintained at 12 months. The more frequent the singing group participation, the more significant the improvement.
The study concluded that high dosage (weekly), therapeutically informed, intensive effort singing increased vocal intensity, MEP and voice-related quality of life.
Movement Disorder Nurse Project - Goulburn Valley Health region
In 2016 we completed a two-year research project with Goulburn Valley Health and the Shepparton Parkinson’s Peer Support Group to evaluate the benefits of a movement disorder nurse in regional areas.
The project evaluation found the Movement Disorder Nurse model to be highly valued and responsive to the needs of the rural community. The service provided support for people with Parkinson’s and their carers, and had a positive impact on their quality of life and confidence in managing the condition.
As a result, Goulburn Valley Health has continued to fund the the Movement Disorder Nurse position as an ongoing component of the GV Health Community Rehabilitation Program.
Deloitte Access Economics report
Written by Deloitte Access Economics, Living with Parkinson’s Disease: An updated economic analysis 2014, highlighted the significant growth in health system costs, productivity loss, and the financial burden for people living with Parkinson’s.
Key findings of the Deloitte Access Economics report include:
- Parkinson's costs the Australian community almost $10 billion each year. This figure has almost doubled since 2005
- Since 2005, there's been an increase of 103 percent in direct financial costs of Parkinson's ($1.1 billion) and an increase of 42 percent ($8.9 billion) in the burden of disease
- Parkinson's remains one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative conditions in Australia. Nearly 70,000 people in Australia are living with Parkinson's - a dramatic increase of 27 percent in just nine years
- More than 11,500 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's every year
- It is estimated that by 2034, more than 123,000 people will be living with Parkinson’s
The new report outlined cost effective interventions to assist people living with Parkinson's to achieve a better quality of life, while simultaneously reducing the cost of this condition to the community. It also provided practical strategies for reducing direct health care costs. This includes avoiding unnecessary hospital and aged care admissions, and decreasing lengths of stay and medical specialist consultations.
Read the full Deloitte Access Economics report.
Parkinson's Victoria receives a number of requests from researchers seeking participants for research projects. If approved by our research committee, Parkinson's Victoria will share these requests with the community. Research requests supported in 2017-19 included:
- the impact of Parkinson's on motivation and cognition
- skin epidermal and blood lipid concentrations as biomarkers
- assessing retinal measures to determine whether retinal function can be used as a biomarker for Parkinson's
- hallucinations and cognition in Parkinson’s.