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Parkinson’s Medications for Motor Symptoms

[The Parkinson's Podcast™]

Parkinson’s Medications for Motor Symptoms


We are on the cusp of making some really great discoveries especially with the potential to slow down the disease, reverse the symptoms and certainly the holy grail of coming up with a cure.
– Trevor Hawkins, MD

The crux of the problem in Parkinson’s is the cell death of neurons in the brain that produce dopamine.

In this episode with Dr. Trevor Hawkins, you will learn:

  • The three main types of medications used to treat the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s
  • How to make up for the cells that have already died off
  • Common misconceptions about Levodopa
  • Side effects of the most common medication that treat Parkinson’s
  • Common non-motor symptoms and how medications can potentially reduce those too


  • By the time someone begins seeing signs of Parkinson’s, they only have 10-20% of their dopamine-producing cells left
  • The goal with medications like carbidopa/levodopa is to get the remaining cells to pump out more dopamine and potentially make up for the cells that have died off
  • Cell to cell communication in the brain is much like a paperboy/papergirl delivering papers to your doorstep
  • MAO Inhibitors keep the nosy neighbor at home by letting the dopamine hang out longer and giving it a better chance of delivering the message across the synapse – they stop the enzyme that clears out the dopamine before the cell has a chance to get it
  • Dopamine agonists bypass all of the machinery and go straight to the doors (think about magazines that are delivered straight to your mailbox)
  • All three of the medications treat motor symptoms, they don’t stop, slow down or cure Parkinson’s
  • Still, in many cases, non-motor symptoms can get better as well. If you’re not as burdened by motor symptoms, you’ll feel better, you won’t be as depressed, you’ll be in a better mood, you’ll sleep better and you’ll likely be more active
  • Common misconception: levodopa is actually not toxic to neurons and it won’t increase the speed of Parkinson’s progression – it can still work after many decades of being on it
  • It used to be believed that dyskinesias were related to when you started levodopa, but it has nothing to do with that. It just has to do with the progression of Parkinson’s for you

Concepts Mentioned in this Podcast & Further Reading

The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s
MAO Inhibitors
Dopamine Agonists
What, When, Why, How & More of DBS for the Newly Diagnosed
How to Bring Light to the Darker Side of Parkinson’s: A Primer on Hallucinations and Delusions and How to Manage Them
What is REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?
Living Well with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) in Parkinson’s: What They Are and How to Manage Them


Trevor Hawkins MDDr. Trevor Hawkins is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anschutz Medical Campus.





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2 Comments on “Parkinson’s Medications for Motor Symptoms

    • Bill and Vivian Heinmiller

      December 1, 2018 at 8:29 am Reply

      We were at your presentation in Toronto last year and are filled with gratitude for your ability to help those living with Parkinson’s. We have learned a lot about Parkinson’s over the last 23 years and have been very active in our chapter .
      The explanations in your posts are clear and are especially helpful for newly diagnosed people. Thanks for all you do for free. Although we will receive no tax receipt we are donating to your foundation. With Gratitude,
      Bill & Vivian Heinmiller

      • Melani Dizon

        December 1, 2018 at 8:40 am Reply

        Dear Bill and Vivian – Thank you so much for reading. We’re so happy that you have found value from the tools and resources we provide. And thank you as well for your donation. Every gift counts!

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