Researchers Find Link Between Parkinson’s Gene (Alpha-Synclein) and Vocal Issues That Could Lead to Earlier Diagnosis; Experiment in Zebra Finch Animal Model Proves Key

Parkinson's disease is perhaps best known for its movement-related symptoms, particularly tremors and stiffness. But the disease is also known to hinder vocal production, giving those with Parkinson's a soft monotonous voice. Those symptoms, research has suggested, often appear much earlier in the disease's development--sometimes decades before movement-related symptoms. New research by University of Arizona neuroscientists suggests that a specific gene commonly associated with Parkinson's may be behind those vocal-related issues--a finding that could help lead to earlier diagnoses and treatments for Parkinson's patients. The research was conducted in the lab of Julie E. Miller, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences in the College of Science. "We have this big gap here--we don't know how this disease impacts the brain regions for vocal production, and this is really an opportunity to intervene early and come up with better treatments," said Dr. Miller, who also has joint appointments in the Department of Neurology and the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience, and is a member of the U Arizona BIO5 Institute.

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