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Lifestyle may affect Parkinson's risk

20th February 2006

New research suggests that a person's lifestyle and risk taking may affect their likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease.

Patients who have the disease were less likely to have smoked and drank as well as consumed less caffeine compared to others their own age and sex, according to a study in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The study of 106 patients with the disease and 106 without also showed that sufferers had been less likely to seek sensation and risk taking and more susceptible to anxiety and depression. This suggested to the researchers that there may be a neurobiological link leading to a 'Parkinson personality' before onset of the disease.

It is already known that the incidence rate, from a low 15 per 100,000 in China to 657 per 100,000 in Argentina, may have a socio-economic prevalence but this study now suggests personality can play a factor too.

At present, it is unknown how exactly the movement-affecting disease is caused and famous sufferers include Mohammed Ali and Michael J Fox.

Patients with the disease are likely to withdraw socially and spurn social activity and remain passive, but this study now suggests that this kind of social-activity may increase the possibility of developing the disease.

Results were collected following a questionnaire designed to measure personality traits and the study suggests that dopamine systems in the brain associated with Parkinson's disease may also shape personality long before its onset.