It's Not Level


I haven't posted here in a while (shame one me!), but today is World Parkinson's day and it's a great opportunity to rev up the blog page and also raise awareness for Parkinson's disease.


So, let's talk about Parkinson's disease (PD)... actually, I should be more specific - let's talk about dopamine. To those who are not familiar with PD, dopamine is said to be the neurotransmitter that is deficient in PD patients. This brain chemical is responsible for many important human functions but before I discuss those, I want you to think about this: researchers say that by the time a person with Parkinson's disease starts experiencing motor symptoms, they have lost between 60% - 80% of their dopamine producing neurons! I really want you to think about that. What that means is that, in my case, as of October 2011 (my first recollection of motor symptoms), I had lost way more than half of my dopamine producing neurons. This was over 6 years ago and I honestly shudder when I contemplate how much I have left today.

Let's go back to dopamine's role in human functions - it plays a role in movement, memory, cognition, mood, attention, and behaviour. Now, I know the relationship is not precisely linear, but if a person with Parkinson's disease (PWP) has lost the majority of their dopamine producing neurons - neurons that produce the brain chemicals responsible for the aforementioned functions, I think it stands to reason that even if they gave a 100% effort all the time in these areas, they would still come up short.

This is not a justification for bad behaviour nor is it an excuse for a PWP not giving their best effort. This is simply raising awareness about the difficult limitations PWP are confronted with. If we, PWPs, are only operating with a small fraction of this all-powerful neurotransmitter then our mood, our cognitive abilities, our behaviour, our drive, our attention to details, our addictions, and many more "ours" are all bound to be impacted, right? When it comes to our abilities to perform all these functions, rest assured that the playing field is not level - not even by a long shot. Think about that.

#empathy

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