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A novel computational model -- how Parkinson's medications affect learning and attention
Date:1/20/2010

Newark, NJ A new brain-based computational model is helping to understand how Parkinson's disease and dopamine medicationsused to treat motor symptoms caused by the disease can affect learning and attention.

As reported in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/jocn.2010.21420, a new computational model, developed by Drs. Ahmed Moustafa and Mark Gluck, at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University, Newark, has shown how Parkinson's disease affects attentional performance during learning.

The same model also shows that dopamine medications enhance attentional performance in Parkinson's patients in agreement with past observations. Future lab experiments with Parkinson's patients will be conducted by Moustafa and Mark Gluck to test further model predictions.

Parkinson's is a disease that mainly affects dopamine levels in a brain area known as the basal ganglia, which is important for motor control. Hence, damage to this area leads to movement disorders, including shaking and difficulty moving--key symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Over the past two decades, it became known to neurologists and experimental neuroscientists that Parkinson's disease also affects non-motor functions, including memory, learning, and attention. Impairment in these processes affect the quality of life of the patients, thus, understanding the neural basis of motor and non-motor dysfunction in Parkinson's disease is equally important.

Dopamine is also projected to other parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, an area important for higher-level thinking, decision making, and attention. Dopamine projected to the prefrontal cortex is also reduced in Parkinson's disease, as reported in many experimental studies with humans and animal models of Parkinson's di
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Contact: Helen Paxton
paxton@andromeda.rutgers.edu
973-353-5262
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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