Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


UC first in the world using advanced medical technique

UC first in the world using advanced technique to identify Parkinson’s decline

September 5, 2012

A University of Canterbury brain research project is believed to be the first in the world using advanced technique to identify declining Parkinson’s disease.

UC PhD student Nadia Borlase is working with the New Zealand Brain Research Institute and Canterbury Medical Research Foundation in creating a medical break-through.

`` These techniques have been used in healthy people, but as far as we know, we are the first to use them in a neuro-degenerative condition like Parkinson's disease,’’ Borlase said today.

The clinical study has used a new technique for the first time that allowed them to look at the brain while the patient is still alive to find cellular degeneration in the thalamus, though many people had previously found cellular degeneration at an autopsy.

With New Zealand’s aging population the demand for healthcare has significantly increased and taxpayers are now facing the harsh reality of costly long term care and the greater need for disability services.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease and although motor symptoms are the most visible the onset of dementia is the most debilitating symptom and largest contributor to resource expenditure.

A large number of patients will be diagnosed with dementia as a result of Parkinson’s disease diagnosis so it is important to be able to identify those most at risk for this. Nursing home placement, although a secondary alternative for most families, is a frequent necessity once dementia has presented.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there are treatment methods to treat the motor and cognitive symptoms which will significantly improve the patients and their caregiver’s quality of life.

To achieve the best result these interventions need to be applied as early in disease course as possible.

``Our research group aims to use advanced neurological imaging to identify the subtle brain changes that occur prior to the cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease being identifiable clinically.

``We are focussing on the thalamus, a structure at the centre of the brain as it is involved in all aspects of function except smell processing. The architecture of the thalamus is almost identical to that of the rest of the brain so we have used mathematical algorithms to segment it into pieces, each of which is thought to be responsible for a specific area of behaviour.

``We have also used another procedure which allows us to follow the pathways that these pieces take from the centre of the brain out to the cortex (rest of the brain). In line with other work we have found there is some association with the whole thalamus and multiple areas of cognition and that the thalamus is significantly degenerated in dementia.

Prior to the onset of dementia we have demonstrated, for the first time that there is cellular degeneration in some areas of the thalamus – but not others and that this has a domain-specific association with cognition, where some regions are heavily influential on one or two components of cognition while others are only influential in another area.

Borlase said in one of their groups of patients which had absolutely no discernible cognitive dysfunction they found significant cellular disruption in areas that were known to influence the first cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, executive function and attention difficulties.

Although this would not be a first line response for the identification of potential dementia in a Parkinson’s disease patient they hoped the method would be applicable in wider clinical research settings and potentially enable early identification of those most at risk for dementia in order for treatment intervention to be applied as early as possible.

The research project when completed will aid in potential treatments being able to be applied as early as possible.

``In terms of significance we are excited about it. It greatly expands what’s been done previously and combined with what else is going on at the New Zealand Brain Research Institute, fits with what we're finding in the rest of the brain.

Borlase is working under the supervision of UC Associate Professor John Dalrymple-Alford and Tim Anderson, clinical director at the New Zealand Brain research Institute. Anderson is also a neurologist in the department of neurology for the Canterbury District Health Board.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Snail's Pace: Aucklanders Face Frustrating Commute Over Harbour Bridge

Journeys into Auckland's CBD took longer than usual as traffic banked up around the damaged Harbour Bridge. More>>


Statistics New Zealand: COVID-19 Sees Record 12.2 Percent Fall In New Zealand’s Economy

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 12.2 percent in the June 2020 quarter, the largest quarterly fall recorded since the current series began in 1987, as the COVID-19 restrictions in place through the quarter impacted economic activity, Stats NZ said ... More>>


Climate: Scientists Release ‘Blueprint’ To Save Critical Ecosystems And Stabilize The Earth’s Climate

A group of scientists and experts produced the first comprehensive global-scale analysis of terrestrial areas essential for biodiversity and climate resilience, totaling 50.4% of the Earth's land. The report was published in Science Advances ... More>>


MPI: Independent Review Launched Into Assurances For Safe Transport Of Livestock By Sea

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has launched an independent review of the assurances it receives for the safe transport of livestock by sea. MPI Director-General Ray Smith says Mike Heron QC has been appointed to lead the review, which is expected ... More>>


Computers: New Zealand PC Market Grows Nearly 40% Due To Work From Home Demand

COVID-19 had large impacts on demand for PCs as businesses prepared for lockdowns by purchasing notebooks to mobilise their workforce. In the second quarter of 2020, New Zealand's Traditional PC market experienced a 39.7% year-on-year (YoY) growth ... More>>


Ministry of Health: Public Transport Distancing Requirements Relaxed

Physical distancing requirements on public transport have been reviewed by the Ministry of Health to determine whether they are still required at Alert Level 2 (or below). The Ministry’s assessment is that mandatory face covering and individuals tracking ... More>>


NZHIA: New Zealand Hemp Industry Set To Generate $2 Billion Per Annum And Create 20,000 Jobs

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs. Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp ... More>>


Stats NZ: One In 14 Employed People Report High Risk Of Losing Jobs

About one in 14 workers say they expect to lose their job or business by mid-2021, Stats NZ said today. A survey of employed people in the June 2020 quarter showed 7 percent felt there was a high or almost certain chance of losing their job or business ... More>>

ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast: NZ Economy Doing Better Than Expected, But Challenges Remain

August lockdown estimated to have shaved 8% off NZ’s weekly GDP, and 0.5% off annual GDP Economy now expected to shrink 5% (year-on-year) by end of 2020 Unemployment rate now expected to peak at 7.2% The latest ASB Quarterly Economic Forecast is less ... More>>


SAFE: Live Export Ship Carrying 5,800 New Zealand Cows Goes Missing In East China Sea

Livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 sent a distress signal at 4:45am NZT yesterday in the East China Sea. The area is affected by Typhoon Maysak. At 4pm a patrol plane spotted a lifeboat - with no people in it - and a man in lifejacket nearby. The ship ... More>>


FMA: Kiwisaver Fees Don't Match Performance

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) today published an independent report into the passive and active investment management styles [i] used by KiwiSaver providers. The FMA commissioned MyFiduciary to test the extent that KiwiSaver providers were ... More>>