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Mysteries of Parkinson’s disease investigated

Research is underway to find out how Parkinson’s disease effects our ability to learn and remember.

Jared Smith, a psychology student at Victoria University, Wellington said those people with Parkinson’s disease often have great difficulty remembering things that become automatic to many of us, like driving a car or riding a bike.

“Every person with Parkinson’s disease is effected in completely different ways and to different extremes. My research will discover why there is such great variation among patients.”

“By studying the underlying brain structure we can find out what exactly Parkinson’s disease patients can expect, and offer some real answers.”

Jared hopes to work with some 40 people who have Parkinson’s disease, from around the country.

“One problem for people with Parkinson’s disease is the ability to learn and memorise sequences of numbers like phone numbers and bank account numbers. For many of us, remembering these numbers is automatic, but for patients with Parkinson’s disease it is much more difficult and sometimes impossible,” said Jared.

“Not only does this research have scientific value, but it will also raise awareness throughout New Zealand about Parkinson’s disease.

“The work is not all scientific. There is a great qualitative side, meeting and interacting with people, tackling individual differences and talking to people in their homes.”

Jared was awarded a Bright Future Scholarship earlier this year to carry out this research. The scholarships are administered by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and funded by the Ministry of Education.

“The scholarship has opened up real opportunities for my work. Things that before would have been incredibly challenging financially before are no longer an issue,” he said.

Top Doctoral Scholarships enable scholars to complete a PhD in any field of study. The scholarships are aimed at the top 10% of post-graduate students and are awarded on the basis of the excellence.

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