Research could shed light on symptoms related to brain disorders

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Over 30,000 people are in the District participating in Neuroscience 2017, SfN’s (Society for Neuroscience) annual conference, where experts representing over 80 countries have joined to collaborate on brain and nervous system research.

One session covers previous research on caffeine’s inability to relieve movement symptoms for those battling Parkinson’s diseases published on the September 2017, online issue of the American Academy of Neurology medical journal Neurology. The 2017 research digs deeper into another study published in 2012. The 2012 study suggests caffeine may reduce some symptoms of Parkinson’s. The researchers of the 2017 study were optimistic the 2012 may be correct, but feel the study was too limited (it was a small six-week study). They also felt further research was necessary.

Ronald Postuma, MD, MSc, the 2017 study author, had previously remarked if caffeine has been linked to a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s, it simply had to be explored further. Caffeine can be purchased over the counter everywhere from places like CVS and grocery stores.

The study

121 people who have had Parkinson’s for an average of four years and an average age of 62, where put in two groups. One group received a 200-milligram capsule of caffeine twice daily (morning and after lunch). The dose was gradually increased to aid the group’s adjustment (placebos then ultimately 200-milligram at week nine). The other group received placebo capsules throughout. The study ran from six to 18 months.

The result

Sadly, researchers didn’t see much improvement. No improvement in movement symptoms for those who took caffeine capsules compared to those who took the placebo were charted. Nor was there an improvement in quality of life. The study was halted thereafter, since no benefit was noted. Postuma was hopeful there would some improvement since the previous study eluded to the possibility. He did say since the previous study may have shown promise, perhaps there are short-term benefits that quickly go away. Either way, Postuma believes specialists shouldn’t recommend caffeine as a form of therapy.

“It seems like a waste of resources,” mentioned Kari Davenport, a conference attendee and someone familiar with the study. “Nothing should be overlooked, but the time and money spent for the study could have been better used working with something that showed more promise.” Other conference attendee I spoke with believe discovering there is no improvement is still a success because it makes for one less road to travel down for future researchers.

The 2017 study didn’t measure for the amount of caffeine in the blood of those who participated. Some feel this could have affected the results. Additionally, they gave the same doses of caffeine as those in the 2012 study. Many believe a higher dose of caffeine may have given the desired results.

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