qMAP-PD is an ongoing study using advanced brain imaging techniques based at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL. The aim of this work is to better understand the causes of variability between individuals with a common disorder called Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions that may show similar symptoms in the early or pre-clinical stages.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a common progressive disorder of the brain that becomes more likely with age.  It is diagnosed by doctors based upon the clinical history together with a combination of muscle stiffness, tremor and slow movements on examination. Individuals begin to experience these symptoms once 70-80% of nerve cells within a brain region called the substantia nigra have already died.

There is evidence that Parkinson’s disease begins in a different part of the brain up to 20 years before it is diagnosed. During this intervening period, called “pre-clinical Parkinson’s”, there are subtle problems such as loss of sense of smell or sleep disturbances, which are more likely to be experienced by individuals with the condition. However, these symptoms are also common in people who do not have the disease. It is not possible to identify who has pre-clinical Parkinson’s, or how quickly the disease will progress once diagnosed.

Once diagnosed, disease progression is highly variable. Additionally, there are a number of conditions that can look like Parkinson’s disease, particularly in the very early stages. It is mainly through repeated assessments over a longer period of time that these other conditions become apparent. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s and we don’t yet know why people get the condition.

What is the aim of this study? 

Currently there are no treatments that can slow or cure Parkinson’s disease. One of the reasons for this is because the problems with movement only become apparent once 70-80% of the nerve cells have already been irreversibly lost. Also, once diagnosed, the way the disease progresses is highly variable among individuals, and it may be that different people require different types of treatment.

This work seeks to use detailed clinical assessments, non-invasive brain-scanning techniques (Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI) and inherited material (DNA, Genes) to understand why Parkinson’s disease is so variable. With these, we aim to develop ways to predict how quickly the disease will progress based on an individual’s brain structure, and diagnose the condition during the pre-clinical phase. By achieving these aims, strategies aimed at slowing the condition can be researched more accurately, and may help develop future treatments that are tailored to individual subjects and started before brain tissue is irreversibly lost.

Who can take part?

People aged between 40 and 70 years, who are able to undergo MRI scanning, and belong to one of the following groups:

– People diagnosed with Parkinson’s within the last two years;
– Healthy people who do not have a current diagnosis of Parkinson’s (or any other neurological condition);
– People diagnosed with REM sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD).

Find out more?

More more details click link: Participant information sheet

Contact us?

For more information, or details about taking part, please email: ion.qmap@ucl.ac.uk