In addition to affecting walking abilities and general mobility, PD is often accompanied by a reduction in an important neuro-protective protein, the Brain-Derived Neurotrohpic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is a critical neurotrophin that aids in developing and maintaining synaptic plasticity, neuronal connectivity, and neuron survival, and it is especially important in the context of PD as it helps protect dopaminergic neurons from degeneration and cell death.
Because BDNF is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, its concentration in the blood can serve as a surrogate measure of levels within the brain, constituting an indirect measure of neuroplasticity. Furthermore, PD patients also typically present with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, which can further suppress the production and release of BDNF. Therefore, it is of interest to reduce cortisol and increase BDNF blood concentrations in order to protect neural health and function in PD patients.
In a study of 33 PD patients presenting with freezing of gait (FOG) symptoms in the OFF-medication status, the effects of AMPS treatment, as administered with the Gondola device, on blood serum BDNF and cortisol levels was tested. In this study, PD patients were randomized to receive either effective or sham AMPS treatments every fourth day for four weeks.
The patients receiving effective AMPS treatments had a significantly larger increase in BDNF levels and decrease in cortisol levels compared to the group receiving sham AMPS treatments. Additionally, patients experienced greater improvements in walking abilities (increased velocity and stride length) with effective AMPS treatments versus sham AMPS treatments.
Overall, these results indicate that AMPS treatments induce a systemic biological effect and can provide a complementary gait rehabilitation therapy for PD patients that also supports neural survival, growth, and plasticity.
Pagnussat AS, Kleiner AFR, Rieder CRM, et al. Plantar stimulation in parkinsonians: From biomarkers to mobility – Randomized-controlled trial. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2018;36(2):195-205.