People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) tend to slow down and decrease the intensity of their movements even though many retain the ability to move more quickly and forcefully. Now, in proof-of-concept experiments with “joysticks” that measure force, a team of Johns Hopkins scientists report evidence that the slowdown likely arises from the brain’s “cost/benefit analysis,” which gets skewed by the loss of dopamine in people with PD.

In addition, their study with a small group of 20 patients with PD demonstrated that stimulation of the cortex of the brain using external electrodes corrected some of the distortion and temporarily improved some patients’ motor symptoms. PD affects up to 1 million Americans.

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