New Moves, Good News

by Diana O’Farrell and Linda Doren

Just a short year ago, the Mountain Meadows community shared some important information about the early signs of Parkinson’s disease.  As one might expect, this is not a happy subject to talk about and our article was received with mixed emotions.

Now, we are pleased to tell everyone about some Good News…New Moves.

On September 11th the Mountain Meadows community listened to a presentation by Dr. Bin Hu from the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary.  Dr. Hu was invited to introduce his research project on how music can retrain the brain to aid in movement.

Dr. Hu showed videos of patients, not able to move and walk, walking and moving shortly after using the AmbuloSono system he developed with fellow researchers.  We have watched the founder of Mountain Meadows, Madeline Hill, become a fluid walking machine as she became the first Parkinson’s patient in the U.S. to use this method.  Mountain Meadows is the only test location in the United States.

The system measures stride length and distance walked.  An iPod is held in a pouch strapped above the knee and is wirelessly connected to headphones.  Music switches on above a certain stride length.  “It uses music as a reward, so you have to walk larger steps in order to trigger the music,” said Dr. Hu.  He described how music affects three areas in the brain for rhythm perception, reward or motivation, and locomotion control.

Both walking and music increase dopamine production in the brain, which could also help dopamine-deficient PD patients.  Significant improvements in arm swings, facial expression, fear and anxiety of using escalators, and activity avoidance due to depression/apathy have been noted by researchers.  Many people who attended the presentation have signed up to participate in the research project.  Since there were limited slots, many are on a waiting list!

Along with walking, another way to increase movement is dance!  Dance for PD was originated by the Mark Morris Dance Group along with the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group in New York.  Dance instructors nationally are now teaching forms of dance and mental strategies used by dancers to PD patients.  Madeline Hill and Vanessa Newman have opened The Center for Sustainable Movement on the Mountain Meadows campus and are excited to offer “Dance for Parkinson’s Disease.”

Vanessa Newman, trained in Dance for PD, held a workshop and it was met with much enthusiasm for PD and non-PD classes.  This could be a life-changing, fun and enjoyable way to get New Moves.  Good News!