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Networks of spinal neurons also participate in controlling the alternating action of the legs during normal walking, maintaining posture, and, to a large degree, in all movements.
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One of the most frightening and devastating of all neurological disorders is the dementia that can occur in the elderly. The most common form of this illness is Alzheimer’s disease.
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The discovery in the late 1950s that the level of dopamine was decreased in the brains of Parkinson’s patients was followed in the 1960s by successful treatment with the drug levodopa, which is converted to dopamine in the brain. This historical event is one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in the field of neurology.
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This progressive disorder strikes approximately 5,600 Americans annually, with an average survival time of just two to five years from symptom onset.
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Currently approved treatments for Alzheimer’s disease do not modify the course of the disease and offer only temporary mitigation of some symptoms, such as agitation, anxiety, unpredictable behavior, sleep disturbances, and depression.
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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects approximately 1.5 million individuals in the United States. Typically, people start showing symptoms over the age of 50. In fact, aging is the only known risk factor for the development of this disorder.
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Affecting some 30,000 Americans and placing 200,000 more Americans at risk for inheriting the disease from an affected parent, Huntington’s disease is now considered one of the most common hereditary brain disorders.
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Although scientists have made great strides in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, no treatment has been approved for halting or reversing the condition. Meanwhile, the need is becoming more urgent, as populations in the world’s developed nations grow older and live longer.
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