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Parkinson’s Patient Walks Again
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder in the central nervous system that results from the sudden death of dopamine producing cells in certain neurons in the midbrain and destroys the brain’s ability to control motor skills. Because of the devastating effects this disease can have, many Parkinson’s patients develop depression and some even dementia in the later stages of the disease. Parkinson’s disease affects one in every five hundred people. Since Parkinson’s causes damage in the central nervous system, its symptoms are usually movement related such as walking.
Many patients lose their ability to walk depending on how advanced the disease has become such as Wayne Puckett. He has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and lost the ability to walk. This resulted in him losing his job and being restrained to a wheelchair. However, by using new laser technology, Parkinson’s patients are now able to walk again. In 2010, Wayne Puckett met Dr. Jay Van Gerpen and his team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. They have developed a device that re-routes brain signals in Parkinson’s patients allowing them to regain mobility. The device uses lasers attached to the patient’s walker displaying a red laser on the ground in front of them.
Wayne Puckett, not having walked in four years, tries the device and is immediately walking again. The laser line acts a visual queue that tells the patient’s brain to bypass the damaged part in the midbrain and to use another part that has full functionality. By re-routing around the damaged part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex and the motor cortex are again connected allowing the patient to regain use of their motor skills. Parkinson’s disease drastically alters the lifestyle of the patient affected as in the case of Wayne Puckett, but with Jay Van Gerpen’s device, Wayne may be able to start to lead a normal life again.