Research Unlocks The Key Contributors To Parkinson’s Disease

Research Unlocks The Key Contributors To Parkinson’s Disease

The consumption of too much milk may contribute to a man’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

The link between milk and Parkinson’s was discovered by researchers at the Shiga University of Medical Science in Otsu, Japan. It is a part of a series of ongoing studies linking the accidental consumption of pesticides with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

Pineapple Pesticides and Parkinson’s?

The study found that the same pesticides sprayed onto Hawaiian pineapple can show up in milk.

In the study, Dr. Robert Abbott looked at the amount of milk that men were drinking. The initial survey was a part of a larger study on aging. The participating men donated their brains to the study after their death.


The study found that the men who drank the most milk (over 16 ounces per day) had the most significant damage in their brains. This damage featured low numbers of brain cells in the substantia nigra. This is the specific region of the brain that is damaged by Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to looking at damaged cells, researchers looked for possible signs of pesticides. The men who drank a lot of milk also had residues of a pesticide called heptachlor epoxide in their brains. Heptachlor expoxide was removed from use in the U.S. markets after 1988.

The study showed that pesticide residues were found in 9 out of 10 brains from the men who drank more than 16 ounces of milk per day. The pesticide was only found in 63.4 percent of men who did not drink milk. Strangely, the men who drank milk and smoked cigarettes saw no brain cell loss.

Connecting the Dots

Understanding the links between pesticides and Parkinson’s is important for understanding the development of the disease. Because there is no genetic link in most cases, understanding environmental causes could be the key to unlocking the disease.


Parkinson’s is currently a mystery to many doctors and patients. Approximately 85% of Parkinson’s sufferers do not know why they have this cruel disease.

Parkinson’s affects around one million Americans. The disease features symptoms like mild to severe tremors. It can also cause rigid muscles. The combination of the two symptoms can create serious problems with movement that are often debilitating for patients.

Because no one knows why Parkinson’s occurs, there is no cure for the disease; however, treatments are becoming more effective. Early treatment can help offset some of the more painful symptoms. Ultimately, almost all patients eventually succumb to the disease.

Early treatment is crucial to improving longevity in patients who develop Parkinson’s disease, but it is not always possible because without a cause, it is hard to find an appropriate treatment plan for every patient.


Possible Concerns and Other Links

recent report from Swedish researchers suggests that depression can be an early symptom of Parkinson’s. It may even be a risk factor for developing the disease.

The Swedish study found a link between Parkinson’s and depression. The researchers used the national health database to look for members of the population who had been diagnosed with depression between the years 1987 and 2012. The data showed that 1% of those people, who were over age 50, were diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Only .4% of people who were never diagnosed with depression were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Like pesticides, researchers cannot categorically say that depression causes Parkinson’s, but pesticides and depression see significant correlation with the death of brain cells.

The Mysteries of the Brain

Like Parkinson’s, depression is also mysterious. Doctors are not sure what causes it or how to treat it appropriately. Treatment is difficult and the use of SSRI’s often results in worsening symptoms for some patients.


The brain is a mystery. Science is only beginning the journey in understanding how the brain works. With so few clues to go on, the recent research into the potential environmental causes of neurodegenerative diseases can give people hope as they begin to navigate the aging process.

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Atkinson via

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Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.


     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.


    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence


      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.


      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]


      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.


        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.


          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]



          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via


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