2017 Investigator-Initiated Projects

Browse summaries of the research grants supported by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, a division of the Parkinson’s Foundation, in 2017. Stay tuned for additional announcements throughout the year.

Translational Research Grants | $500,000

Aim to ease difficulties related to cognition, sleep and fatigue in Parkinson’s, topics selected as part of the our Community Choice Research Awards.

[+] Impact of a Novel Exercise Intervention on Executive Function and Sleep in People with Parkinson's

Amy Amara, M.D., Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham

For many people, nonmotor symptoms such as cognitive difficulties and sleep problems, can be more disabling than motor symptoms. Currently-available medications are either ineffective in treating cognition and sleep or offer unwanted side effects. Other therapeutic options such as exercise are known to improve the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, but have not been fully explored for cognition and sleep. This study will examine the impact of a 16-week exercise program, compared to no-exercise, on cognition and sleep in Parkinson’s. Before and after the program, participants will undergo cognitive and sleep testing to measure any changes. The goal of this research is to identify an exercise program that will improve cognition and sleep in people with Parkinson’s.


[+] Remotely-supervised Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) for At-home Treatment of Fatigue and Cognitive Slowing in Parkinson’s Disease

Milton Biagioni, M.D., New York University

Currently, there are no effective treatments available for fatigue and slowed thinking, both of which are common symptoms in Parkinson’s. This study is testing an at-home brain stimulation device, along with cognitive training, to see if the dual-therapy can ease both symptoms. The stimulation, called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a low-cost, relatively safe noninvasive brain stimulation technique that can be used at home. The cognitive training sessions are computer-based exercises designed to strengthen cognitive abilities. The study will offer the therapies online, using telemedicine, enabling people who have trouble getting to the clinic to participate from home. The results will help us to understand if the treatment works and will guide future brain stimulation research to validate this therapy for fatigue and slowed thinking.


[+] Goal-directed Behavior in Parkinson's Disease

Nabila Dahodwala, M.D., University of Pennsylvania

Cognitive impairment and apathy are common symptoms that can be disabling for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Our hypothesis is that people may experience both symptoms, as a result of fewer “goal-directed behaviors.” Goal-directed behaviors are activities done with purpose (for example, reading a book) versus habits or reactions, such as automatically laughing at a joke. This study will test a new way of measuring goal-directed behavior in Parkinson’s. It will also use brain imaging to observe brain changes that occur when people experience apathy and cognitive impairment. The hope is that the study will shed light on the mechanisms underlying apathy and cognition in PD, and help in more easily diagnosing them. This knowledge ultimately will allow for the development of targeted treatments for people with Parkinson’s.


[+] Multi-modal Neuroimaging of Fatigue in Parkinson’s Disease

Hengyi Rao, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

[+] Double-blind, Randomised, Cross-over, Pilot Study of Cannabidiol in People with Parkinson’s and RBD Sleep Disorder

Renata Riha, M.D., University of Edinburgh