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The Frozen Addicts

Gene-Environment Interactions in Parkinson’s Disease


Author(s)

Leah A. Roesch
Department of Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology
Emory University
Leah.Roesch@emory.edu

Abstract

This interrupted case study is based on a PBS NOVA episode covering events in the summer of 1982 when seven California heroin users mysteriously and suddenly developed Parkinson’s disease. The video, which is shown in class and paused at several designated points for guided class discussion and mini-lectures, provides details about the neurobiology of Parkinson’s disease as well as fundamental principles of the neurobiology of movement. Students consider the evidence that environmental toxins can contribute to Parkinson’s disease susceptibility. By extending the case to an additional class period, students explore pesticides and other chemicals in their environment and the possible impacts on their neurological systems due to exposures. The case concludes with a discussion of current ideas about gene-environment interactions and considerations for current Parkinson’s treatments and research. This case is best suited for use by advanced high school students or early undergraduate students, but it could be adapted for upper-level neuroscience majors as well.


Objectives

  • List at least four Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
  • Describe the role of the substantia nigra in Parkinson’s disease neuropathology.
  • Diagram an example of motor system circuitry from the motor cortex to a peripheral muscle.
  • Compare and contrast the basal ganglia and motor cortex roles in movement.
  • Construct an argument supporting an important role for environmental influences on Parkinson’s disease.
  • Describe how gene-environment interactions could contribute to disease development.
  • Give one example of a gene that is associated with increased Parkinson’s disease risk.
  • Describe the relationship between LDOPA and dopamine.
  • Compare and contrast four different strategies for Parkinson’s disease treatments.

Keywords

Neuroscience; motor systems; Parkinson’s disease; neuron; pesticide; brain; health; dopamine; disease; heroin;

Topical Areas

History of science

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted, Jig-Saw, Problem-Based Learning

Language

English

Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Epidemiology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Medicinal Chemistry  |   Medicine (General)  |   Neuroscience  |   Pharmacy / Pharmacology  |   Physiology  |   Public Health  |  


Date Posted

10/13/2020

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Answer Key

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Videos

The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • NOVA: The Case of the Frozen Addict
    This video provides details about the neurobiology of Parkinson’s disease as well as fundamental principles of the neurobiology of movement.
  • Frontline: My Father, My Brother, and Me
    Correspondent Dave Iverson's personal journey to understand Parkinson's, the disease which has taken such a toll on his family. Running time: 56:14. Produced by PBS, 2009.

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