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Spotlight on Research Supported by PDF

Christopher G. Goetz, M.D.
Professor and Associate Chairman of the Department of Neurological Sciences
Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL

By 7 AM almost every morning, Dr. Christopher Goetz may be found at his desk at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he presides over one of the nation's largest and most respected movement disorders centers. For the rest of the day, with crisp, authoritative style and clockwork timing, Dr. Goetz sees a full patient roster; serves on multiple advisory boards; acts as a reviewer and editor for various journals; supervises an impressive team of seven neurologists, two neuropsychologists and one psychiatrist, along with nurses, a physician assistant and support staff and conducts and publishes important research aimed at increasing knowledge about Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Goetz focuses his PD research these days on three major topics: hallucinations and other behavioral aspects of the disease; the effect of placebo treatment on the dopamine system in Parkinson's disease and the development of rating scales for monitoring disease-related impairments and disabilities.

He is one of the few nationally-recognized scientists to focus on hallucinations, which affect one-third of people with Parkinson's. Working with his colleagues in neuroimaging, Dr. Goetz has used new brain-scan techniques to establish a mechanism for defining the regions of the brain that are over- or under-active in patients who hallucinate. Using this method, he has found that these people register visual information poorly in visual regions of the brain, and instead use frontal regions in the brain that normally remain inactive when a person is processing this information. He will continue this research to learn more about the anatomical layout of hallucinations in people with Parkinson's.

In addition to his research on hallucinations, Dr. Goetz is working with a grant from the National Institutes of Health to analyze how the so-called "placebo effect" (the frequent reaction among patients to the inert substance that is given to members of the control group in a clinical trial) works in Parkinson's. More than any other neurological disease group, Parkinson's patients seem to respond positively to treatment with placebo in both surgical and pharmacological clinical trials. The findings from this study will have important implications for the design of future Parkinson's clinical trials.

Dr. Goetz's other major current research focus comes with his role as Chair of a Movement Disorder Society Task Force that is working on developing a more comprehensive version of the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), the standard test for measuring the severity and progression of Parkinson's. The task force expects to present some of its findings and recommendations at professional neurological meetings in 2005.

Natural counterparts to his research are Dr. Goetz's myriad activities as a community leader and educator. He has published and co-authored 14 books and monographs, and has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and another 300 invited articles and book chapters. He has served on the editorial boards of several respected journals, and is currently the co-Editor-in-Chief of Movement Disorder, the official journal of the Movement Disorder Society.

Dr. Goetz is also known as an outstanding teacher, with content grounded in learning and experience and delivered in a clear, arresting manner. As the head of his group in Chicago, he is also the administrator of Rush's research center, which is funded in part by the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

As an active complement to PDF's major center at Columbia University in New York, Rush has carved out an international reputation in clinical research on Parkinson's and other movement disorders. For more information on Dr. Goetz's work and research or the Movement Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center, please call (312) 563-2030 or email movement_disorders@rush.edu.