Dr. Jon Stoessl is the head professor of Neurology at UBC and the Canada Research Chair in Parkinson’s Disease. He is also former Director of the PPRC and the current Co-director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Dr. Vesna Sossi is a nuclear physicist specializing in the application of Positron Emission Tomography scans to the study of Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Sossi is the Director of UBC’s PET Imaging Laboratory and is a professor in UBC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

4Exercise

When Parkinson’s patient Kurt Gagel mentioned that he noticed his tremors subsided after cycling, Dr. Jon Stoessl told him about emerging evidence that exercise could be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients.

“I was surprised to discover that Dr. Stoessl was in the process of putting together a research project to study the effect of exercise on people with Parkinson’s,” said Kurt Gagel. “However, the project was in jeopardy due to a lack of public funding, so I decided to fund this very important five-year study.”

This study is led by Dr. Jon Stoessl, head of the UBC division of neurology and former director of the Centre. Physicist and imaging expert Dr. Vesna Sossi is instrumental in guiding the imaging component of the study.

The study examines the effect of exercise on dopamine release through Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and in the brain’s functional connections via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). As well, the study explores whether regular exercise over the long-term (three years) slows progression of Parkinson’s, examining physical and mental function, as well as potential benefits to mood and a decrease in apathy. Dr. Stoessl and his research team hope to confirm not only if exercise is beneficial but why it is. The study seeks to identify the optimal exercise type, frequency and time of day.

This study was made possible thanks to PPRI donor Kurt Gagel.

To learn how advances in imaging are supporting Parkinson’s research, watch Dr. Vesna Sossi’s presentation at the PPRI scientific briefing.