What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects physical movement, and occurs when dopamine-producing cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired.

The cause is unknown but heredity and environment play a role. What we do know is that dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for transmitting signals related to movement from the substantia nigra to another area of the brain called the corpus striatum decrease, and the loss of dopamine-producing neurons result in a lack of smooth muscle control.

Parkinson’s Disease is progressive and affects the patient’s motor abilities. To date, there is no known cure but treatment can improve a patient’s symptoms and overall quality of life.


Our team of dedicated neurosurgeons specializes in both operative and nonoperative treatment of patients with neurological disorders. Treatment includes prevention, diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, critical care and rehabilitation, as well as operative and non-invasive surgery.  

UVNN neurosurgeons have extensive training in the diagnosis of neurological diseases and disorders and work alongside other medical professionals, like emergency room doctors, internists, family practitioners, and osteopaths to provide consultation and diagnosis of neurological diseases. Neurosurgeons treat patients who are suffering from nerve, spine and joint pain as well as a host of other illnesses. 

UVNN patients will have direct access to our neurosurgeons and physician assistants and when necessary, referral to our neurologist to assist with the diagnostic process. 
Appropriate patients may be offered surgical management at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, Gifford Medical Center, or New London Hospital where our surgeries are routinely performed.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are separated into three categories: primary motor symptoms, secondary motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms.

Here’s what you Symptoms vary depending on the stage and include:

  • Resting tremors
  • Bradykinesia
  • Freezing of gait
  • A “mask” face (facial muscle loses involuntary movement)
  • Micrographia (smaller handwriting)
  • Rigidity
  • Postural instability/poor balance
  • Constipation
  • Hyposomia
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Urinary frequency/urgency


There is no definitive procedure for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Our neurologist will evaluate a patient’s clinical symptoms, medical history, and imaging scans called the DaTscan, which produces detailed pictures of the brain’s dopamine system.

A DaTscan is similar to an MRI and involves an injection of a small amount of a radioactive drug that binds to dopamine transmitters in the brain, showing where in the brain dopaminergic neurons are. A machine called a single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scanner reads the levels and location of the dopamine transmitters which may indicate the likelihood of Parkinson’s Disease. A DaTscan cannot confirm a Parkinson’s diagnosis but they can help your doctor confirm or rule out a diagnosis.


Medications, neurosurgery, and supportive therapies may be suggested based on the patient’s symptoms and medical profile.

Our neurologist will establish the  best possible treatment protocol for our patient’s based on:

  • Age, overall health, and medical history
  • Severity of the condition
  • Type of symptoms
  • Tolerance to medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Patient expectations for treatment
  • Patient opinions or preferences