And this is really important because this can be 15 to 20 years before symptoms appear. The King’s College London researchers say the discovery could lead to new screening tools and treatments. The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are shaking, tremors and stiffness, depression, memory and sleep problems. There is no cure, treatments do exist to control symptoms. They focus on restoring dopamine levels. Researchers proved that changes in the brain’s serotonin levels come first and could act as an early warning sign.
The serotonin system is a chemical which has many functions in the brain, including mood, appetite, cognition, well being and movement. Lead study author Prof Marios Politis, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s, said the abnormalities had been found long before movement problems had begun. Knowing about this in early stages of the disease is important, the treatment could potentially slow its progress. For the instant, the imaging method they used is highly specialised and limited to a very small number of research centers, so isn’t yet usable either to help diagnose patients or even to evaluate novel treatments in large clinical studies. The results were published in The Lancet Neurology.