World Parkinson’s Day – 11 April
World Parkinson’s Day is 11 April, and Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka, a Lions Medical Research Foundation Senior Research Fellow, is committed to improving quality of life for people suffering from incurable brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common brain diseases observed in late life with over 80,000 Australian suffering from this disease. Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for such progressive diseases predominantly observed in older Australians. Every day, 32 Australians are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and with an ageing population, an exponential growth in Parkinson’s disease is expected within the next few years. By 2025, the number of people with Parkinson’s disease is estimated to double.
Dr Dissanayaka’s vision is to improve mental health outcomes for older Australians. Mental illnesses are the largest single cause of disability in Australia and costs $56.7billion annually. Depression and anxiety are common but are poorly recognised and under treated in Parkinson’s disease. Carers of patients with such diseases also suffer from significant psychological distress, which must be recognised and treated.
Nadeeka and her team are using a basic science stream including brain imaging to identify mechanisms and markers of mental dysfunctions, and an applied clinical stream including development of new tools for early identification and new psychological treatment for improved management of Parkinson’s disease. Her work extends to use of telemedicine for wider dispersal of psychological treatment to rural and remote communities, incorporates new virtual reality and mobile phone technologies for effective delivery of psychotherapy, and examines alternative methods such as introducing mindfulness and pairing undergraduate students with people in residential aged care facilities to reduce loneliness and decrease depression and anxiety in older Australians.
Her research approach allows accelerated discovery of new targeted treatment to reduce mental illness in brain diseases like Parkinson’s disease, with the intention to rapidly translate findings into clinical practice and residential aged care facilities.
We would love it if you if you can support this research through fundraising during April and help raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease and bring profile to the work of Nadeeka and her team.
Photo – Dr Nadeeka Dissanayaka with her PhD Students