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The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s

[The Parkinson's Podcast™]

The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s


Parkinson’s is complicated. Everyone who lives with it presents with their own unique set of symptoms, and they treat it with their own unique blend of medications, interventions and behaviors. However, even if it shows up differently for everyone, what’s going on in their brain is similar. 

In this episode, you will learn: 

  • What causes Parkinson’s
  • The symptoms that guide a clinical diagnosis
  • What it’s like to be a care partner for someone living with Parkinson’s
  • The genetics of Parkinson’s
  • New research about the link between the gut and Parkinson’s


  • 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s
  • Four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50 – called Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD)
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely than women to be diagnosed
  • Parkinson’s diagnosis is assessed on four primary motor symptoms
    • resting tremor
    • rigidity
    • bradykinesia
    • loss of postural stability
  • By the time motor symptoms appear, most people have lost 80% of the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra
  • Fifteen percent of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of it
  • From a genetics standpoint, Parkinson’s can be caused by mutations in the LRRK2, PARK7, PINK1, PRKN, or SNCA gene
  • New research is looking into the relationship between the gut and Parkinson’s
  • Levodopa is the gold standard medication for those living with Parkinson’s

Concepts Mentioned in this Podcast & Further Reading

The Answer Inside Us: Parkinson’s Genetics
Deep Brain Stimulation
Facial Masking
Protein misfolding
Does Parkinson’s Begin in the Gut?


Kelsey Phinney - The Parkinson's PodcastKelsey Phinney’s dad, Davis Phinney, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when she was around five years old. She has been interested in learning more about the brain and ways to help people living with Parkinson’s ever since. Kelsey graduated from Middlebury College in 2016 with a degree in Neuroscience. She uses her studies, her life experience and the interviews she conducts with experts to inform her new podcast series with us called The Parkinson’s Podcast™. She currently splits her time between Vermont, Colorado and on the road as a professional cross-country skier with hopes of making the next Olympics. Learn more about Kelsey at KelseyPhinney.com.


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28 Comments on “The Neuroscience of Parkinson’s

    • Ron Henry

      October 17, 2018 at 2:58 pm Reply

      I am newly diagnosed and have so many questions. I look forward to receiving your podcast each week. Thank you

      • Melani Dizon

        October 18, 2018 at 6:53 am Reply

        Hi Ron – You might also enjoy this article we published earlier this year: You’ve Been Diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Now What? Also, if you have questions and would like to connect with someone who is traveling a similar path, you might consider reaching out to one of our Ambassadors. They’d love to help out and provide support in any way they can. You can learn about them and choose someone to connect with here.

    • S. Wolfraim

      October 17, 2018 at 3:15 pm Reply

      This is a great start to a promising series. Research and technical elements delivered in accessible and engaging manner. Personal anecdotes
      ground the science in human experience.Analogies used to illustrate
      concepts clearly. Well done!

      • Melani Dizon

        October 18, 2018 at 6:49 am Reply

        Thank you!

    • Ronny Henry

      October 17, 2018 at 3:24 pm Reply

      Just beginning learning about Parkinson’s. My father has been diagnosed and I want all the information I can get. Thank you for the podcasts…I’m most interested in treatments to slow progression and to relieve the frustrations involved with progression. My father is 80 years old and my main concern is keeping him comfortable and sharp. You mentioned you may be able to add a more detailed teaching podcast about disrupted pathways. I will be a listener if you do decide to do that. Thanks again…

      • Melani Dizon

        October 18, 2018 at 6:49 am Reply

        Thank you for listening, Ronny. Do you have our Every Victory Counts® eBook? If not, it would be a great resource for you and your dad. You can download it immediately at https://www.davisphinneyfoundation.org/resources/every-victory-counts-2017/. I will also keep you posted if we do a podcast episode or any content in the future about disrupted pathways. Best to your father.

    • Ben Wise

      October 17, 2018 at 3:47 pm Reply

      Retired biology professor, recently diagnosed at age 81. Appreciate the amazing efforts you have made to present essential information in a most responsible way (not oversimplified). I have only heard Episode 101, and enjoyed it (if that’s the word to use! Maybe “appreciated it” is better! 🙂 ) I especially appreciate the articles you’ve linked to in red (“bradykinesia” and the gut connection). Looking forward to coming episodes.

    • Carol Sue Smith

      October 17, 2018 at 5:06 pm Reply

      Thank you for all of this wonderful information. My husband was diagnosed in 2006. His symptoms were a right hand/arm tremor, depression and insomnia. He had never had difficulty with either of the latter. He was a walking letter carrier for over 30 years, loved his job and a really happy fellow that loved life. We have been married for 52 years. He is now 73. The last three years has been the most difficult. He would never consider DBS . He sees a movement disorder specialist in Lubbock, Texas. He went through the BIG program fall of 2015. We both learned so much. Addtionally, he does water therapy every weekday if we don’t have other commitments. August 29, 2018 he had a PEG J tube placed and started Duopa through a 16 hour pump the week following. It has helped with stamina and what we call his afternoon crash which included extreme fatigue, paranoia, and a feeling of hopelessness. That has improved! He was able with the use of a walker and wheelchair to attend his 55th high school class reunion this past weekend. Something he/we wanted to do but didn’t think possible.
      Looking forward to more of you pod casts!
      Note: In addition to Parkinson’s he has had hip issues that have caused addtional walking problems.

      • Melani Dizon

        October 18, 2018 at 6:42 am Reply

        Thanks for listening, Carol. It sounds like your husband is doing everything he can to take control of his Parkinson’s and live well with it despite the challenges. And he’s very lucky to have you for a care partner. 52 years!!! Congratulations!

    • Ralph Schippanoski

      October 17, 2018 at 5:41 pm Reply

      Very well done!

    • Casey L. Thomas

      October 17, 2018 at 7:54 pm Reply

      Very helpful and informative. I hope that my experience with Parkinsons disease and the supportive community can help others.
      Recently I have joined Rock steady Boxing and I have found it to be very helpful.

    • Jean schuster

      October 18, 2018 at 6:05 pm Reply

      I thought the presentation was very good, we listened to on a I-pad and I was disappointed that there no video. This is my first experience with a podcast so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

      • Melani Dizon

        October 19, 2018 at 6:08 am Reply

        Thank you for listening, Jean. It would be great to add a video component; however, for the time being, our podcasts will be audio only. If you’d like to check out some of our videos, you can watch videos on our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/davisphinneyfdn

    • Frank Nuguid

      October 18, 2018 at 9:44 pm Reply

      Very informative and a great resource to patients like me trying to understand this very complicated illness. Thanks for doing this.

      • Melani Dizon

        October 19, 2018 at 6:09 am Reply

        Thank you for listening, Frank. We’re glad you found value in it. Stay tuned for more!

    • Miller Sigmon

      October 20, 2018 at 3:18 pm Reply

      This introductory podcast was very well done….. Kelsey did an outstanding job of summarizing and explaining the basics of PD. I look forward to future topics and interviews ..Thank you for all the Foundation does to improve the quality of life for those of us living with this disease !!

      • Melani Dizon

        October 24, 2018 at 4:30 am Reply

        Thank you for listening, Miller. We’re so glad you enjoyed it.

    • Lynn Stierman

      October 21, 2018 at 4:09 pm Reply

      I so appreciate your blog
      It makes me feel like I’m not alone
      I plan on listening in the future

    • Kevin Kwok

      October 23, 2018 at 3:29 pm Reply

      This first podcast was absolutely brilliant! Thank you Kelsey for communicating this both scientifically and w your family perspective. ( I loved the Halloween/Ski analogy!). I can’t wait to hear the rest of your podcasts

      • Melani Dizon

        October 24, 2018 at 4:32 am Reply

        Thank you for tuning in, Kevin. I loved the ski analogy, too! I think it was a great way to bring it all together… especially with ski season around the corner:)

    • Brad Kitchens

      October 24, 2018 at 8:39 pm Reply

      I sincerely appreciate you taking on such a complex topic. Congratulations on attaining your degree. There are many others like myself that would like to hear even more detail regarding the Neuroscience of Parkinson’s. This podcast will aide me in discussions with my Movement Disorder Specialist. Is there a transcription of the podcast? Again, I applaud your efforts.

      • Melani Dizon

        October 25, 2018 at 5:35 am Reply

        Hi Brad – We’re glad you’re enjoying the podcast. Unfortunately, we do not have transcripts available at this time.

    • Judith

      October 24, 2018 at 10:47 pm Reply

      Love what you offer and I spread the word about Davis phinney foundation every chance I get.

      • Melani Dizon

        October 25, 2018 at 5:22 am Reply

        Thank you, Judith!

    • Steve Geoffrey

      November 12, 2018 at 1:10 pm Reply

      I was diagnosed by Dr. Brewer in Spring of 2016. I reside in TN. I am Boxing to see if it helps. I am 84 yrs. old.

    • Dee Andrews

      November 21, 2018 at 1:38 pm Reply

      I was reading comments about pd and there were a couple of mentions about and herbal company that had an herbal formula that improved their symptoms in 3 to 4 weeks, I had to leave and when I came back I couldn’t find it.
      If any one has heard of it I would to know where to fine it and of course the name of the company.
      thank you

    • Lorenzo

      February 17, 2019 at 2:20 pm Reply

      Your presentation is so accessible.! I’ll be sharing it with our community of people with PD and care partners. Nice job, Kelsey!

    • S. John Hagenstein

      January 25, 2020 at 7:59 pm Reply

      My suggestion for anyone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s is to get very involved in physical fitness training and education I’ll give you medication to make your symptoms work better.
      They Will improve your movement but at the same time kill brain cells.
      I did this and focused on getting fit and eating the right diet, I have improved dramatically. My movement, stamina and fitness have sky rocketed and I look and feel so much better.
      By all means, follow the advise of your neurologist but they are all Stil learning about the disease and where it comes from. They just learned that PD starts in the stomach, not the brain! So avoid taking more pills, instead get more fit! The harder you work, the healthier you’ll be!!!

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