Exercise may lead to improvements in Parkinson's sufferers, researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) have said.
The loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, which occurs with the onset of Parkinson's, is vital for motor functioning. The researchers use treadmill tests to explore the effect of dopamine on the brain.
Michael Jakowec, lead author of the study, said: "Studies in our animal model of Parkinson's disease support the fact that exercise is beneficial for patients with Parkinson's.
"Exercise may help the injured brain to work more efficiently by allowing the remaining dopamine producing neurons to work harder and in doing so may promote stronger connections in the brain."
Giselle Petzinger, an assistant professor of neurology, said: "Our study shows that the beneficial effects of exercise in Parkinson's disease may be due to more efficient use of dopamine.
"Surviving dopamine cells in our animal models – made to simulate what Parkinson's patients suffer with – subjected to intensive treadmill exercise appear to work harder."
Further studies are to be conducted, exploring the molecular links between exercise and the brain.