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Glossary of Parkinson's Disease Terms

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Myoclonus: Jerking, involuntary movement of arms and legs, usually occurring during sleep.

Neostriatum: A vital part of the brain made up of caudate nucleus and putamen. These are part of the basal ganglia.

Neupro (rotigotine): A dopamine agonist, this drug is approved for those with Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. It comes in the form of a skin patch.   

Neuroleptic drugs: (Also called major tranquilizers.) A group of drugs which block dopamine. These medications are used in the treatment of serious psychiatric conditions, but can produce or aggravate symptoms of Parkinson's disease. These drugs include Haldol, Compazine, Stelazine, and Thorazine.

Neuron: A nerve cell

Neurotransmitter: A specialized chemical produced in nerve cells that permits the transmission of information between nerve cells. Dopamine is one example.

Nigrostriatal degeneration: Degeneration or destruction of the nerve pathways from the part of the brain called the substantia nigra to the basal ganglia or striatum. These pathways are normally rich in dopamine and are affected in Parkinson's disease.

Norepinephrine (Noradrenalin): Chemical transmitter found in the brain.

On-off effect: Fluctuations that occur in response to levodopa treatment in which the person's mobility changes suddenly and unpredictably from a good response (on) to a poor response (off).

Orthostatic hypotension: A drop in blood pressure during changes in body position (for example, from sitting to standing). This can produce dizziness or lightheadedness.

Palilalia: A symptom of Parkinson's disease, in which a word or syllable is repeated and the flow of speech is interrupted.

Pallidectomy: A surgical procedure where the globus pallidus, a structure deep in the brain that is affected by Parkinson's disease, is removed to improve tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia. This type of surgery is rarely recommended and has been replaced by deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Paraesthesia: Sensations, usually unpleasant, arising spontaneously in a limb or other part of the body, experienced as "pins and needles" or fluctuations of warmth or coldness.

Parkinson's facies: A stoic, mask-like facial expression, with infrequent blinking; it is characteristic of Parkinson's disease.

Parkinsonism: A group of symptoms that include tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, stooped posture, and shuffling gait. The more common causes of Parkinsonism are Parkinson's disease, striatonigral degeneration, and a reversible condition induced by certain drugs.

Paralysis agitans: The Latin form of the older, popular term "shaking palsy," which was used to designate early Parkinson's diagnosis.

Postural instability: Difficulty with balance.

Postural tremor: Tremor that increases when hands are stretched out in front.

Precursor: Something that precedes, (for example, Levodopa is a precursor to dopamine in that levodopa is converted to dopamine in the brain).

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP): A degenerative brain condition sometimes difficult to distinguish from Parkinson's disease especially in the early stages. PSP symptoms are rigidity and akinesia (loss of muscle movement), difficulty looking up and down, and speech and balance problems. Those with PSP often have poor response to Parkinson's disease medications.

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