Alison Cooper, lead educator of the free online course, ‘Good brain, bad brain: Parkinson’s disease’ by the University of Birmingham discusses the impact of Parkinson’s on both patients and carers.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disorder of the brain affecting approximately 1% of the global population over 60 years of age. With advancing age, this proportion increases rapidly. The impact of PD is far-reaching; the patients themselves will experience a progression of their symptoms so that their independence will be slowly eroded. Of course this also affects their friends and relations who take on an increasing carer role. All of this contributes to an economic cost as patients and their carers might have to stop working and need more input from social and medical care services.
PD is classed as a neurodegenerative condition because certain neurones in the brain die and cannot be naturally replaced by the body. As a consequence the functions of certain areas of the brain are disrupted. In particular, PD patients have problems with movement which have a profound impact upon their normal lives. Currently, most of the treatments that are available are aimed at minimising the symptoms rather than preventing or reversing the degeneration of the brain neurones.
I have designed this MOOC for anyone who has pondered a question like “what is PD?”, “why does it occur?”, “what can we do to treat it?” and “what research is being done on it? The material is pitched to assume only a basic level of prior understanding of the biology of the brain. The relevant key principles of how the cells of the brain function and are organised will be covered in the early material and you will have an opportunity to discuss any areas you find difficult with the others on the course. This means that we can then go on to explore the rationale for the current treatments available and what underlies their short-comings. In the final week we can then dip into what you think the most important areas for research are and look at what is actually being done.
The free online course begins on Monday, so if you think that this it could help you gain a better understanding of a disease that affects so many people today, then sign up now.