- Brain Awareness Week
Driving and cognitive function in Parkinson's disease; Body composition in Parkinson's disease; Deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, dystonia; Investigational drugs in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders
Certain conditions and illnesses can drastically affect a person's driving capabilities. However, determining if an illness-related impairment makes someone an unsafe driver is a complicated decision. Ideally, that decision should be based on an ability to accurately predict how certain aspects of a disease contribute to risky driving.
Using a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a team of University of Iowa researchers will study how Parkinson's disease affects driver safety. The team, led by principal investigator Ergun Uc, M.D., (left) assistant professor of neurology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and co-principal investigator Matthew Rizzo, M.D., UI professor of neurology, engineering and public policy, aims to generate data that will help predict driver safety for individuals with this condition.
"Parkinson's disease affects people in many ways that can have an impact on their ability to drive," Uc said. "Most people know about the motor effects of the disease -- the tremors and difficulty walking -- but the disease affects lots of systems in the brain and the body. Mental functions -- including the ability to think and make decisions, memory and attention -- are affected, as are reaction times. Parkinson's disease also can affect psychology, causing depression and anxiety, and can alter sleep rhythms and vision."
Uc also noted that the medications designed to alleviate tremors and stiffness caused by the disease can actually worsen other functions by making the patient sleepy or decreasing attention span.