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Death or Damage of Dopamine Neurons

The hallmark pathology of Parkinson’s disease is the damage and death of dopamine producing neurons in the brain. 

By Bobby Thomas and M. Flint Beal | February 1, 2011

Infographic: Death or Damage of Dopamine Neurons
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LUCY READING-IKKANDA

The hallmark pathology of Parkinson’s disease is the damage and death of dopamine producing neurons in the brain. Dopamine plays a role in controlling movement, cognition, learning, and mood, explaining the dementia and difficulty with motor control exhibited by patients with deficits in the production of this key neurotransmitter. The a-synuclein gene was one of the first to be implicated in this disease. It produces a protein that can, in certain circumstances, aggregate to form bundles that are a major component of Lewy bodies—fibers that disrupt normal cell processes. Recently researchers have discovered other mechanisms by which this protein damages or kills dopamine-producing neurons, as well as other genes that may also play a role in driving the disease.

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