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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Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]


Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.


In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]



Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.


Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.


In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.


With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via


[1] US National Library of Medicine: Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain
[2] Daily Mail: Nursing a broken heart? How taking a paracetamol could dull the pain of rejection
[3] Mother For Life: Oxytocin’s Role
[4] Psychology Today: Facebook and Your Brain
[5] Alex Korb: The Upward Spiral

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