17 June 2015: University of Canberra Master of Health by research student Hayley Teasdale is working to make life easier for people living with Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's is a neurological disease that affects an estimated 10 million individuals worldwide and more than 1,000 in the ACT. There is no known cure and no way to slow down the progression of the disease.
Ms Teasdale's research is focusing on balance and fall prevention in Parkinson's patients.
"In my work so far in Parkinson's, one of the most common complaints is a loss of balance with progression of the disease. I'm investigating the effect of Parkinson's on a person's balance and their proprioception," she said.
"Basically, proprioception is that sense that we have of where our arms and legs are in space, even without looking at them. Losing this sense contributes to impaired balance, which can lead to falls and decreased quality of life for those living with Parkinson's."
Participants will be tested to see how well they can sense where their foot is in space using equipment built at the Australian Institute of Sport and located on campus, as well as being asked for a history of falls and their confidence in completing daily tasks.
While Ms Teasdale's initial research project is relatively small, it is the first step in a much larger study which starts next month using transcranial direct current stimulation, a type of brain stimulation.
"This stimulation has been shown to improve Parkinsonian Gait, allowing people with Parkinson's to be able to walk more easily," she added.
Ms Teasdale will be using a high definition version of this stimulation to visualise the brain regions being affected, and couple the stimulation with exercises aimed at improving balance and ankle proprioception. The one-on-one exercise and stimulation program will run three times a week for eight weeks.
Ms Teasdale is looking for participants who live in or around Canberra, are over the age of 40, living with and without Parkinson's to take part in her studies. To volunteer or find out more contact Ms Teasdale at Hayley.Teasdale@canberra.edu.au