Parkinson’s – Attack of the Comic Book Characters

superheroI have a hobbyist’s interest in geology, partly because the field has such cool vocabulary. But now I have a new vocabulary love — neurology. Ya gotta love a subject in which the main action takes place in the substantia nigra. It even means “black substance” — how cool is that? A subject in which the main actors are called “neurons” sounds like comic book characters to me.

What happens in Parkinson’s is that our heroic neurons die off and are no longer able to produce dopamine, which controls movement and coordination. Dopamine isn’t the name I’d pick for my comic book (sounds kind of, well…., dopey) but I have to stick with the science. Once the neurons are down 60 to 80%, you start displaying Parkinson’s symptoms like the tremor I have. One of the rescuers has a much better comic book name: L-Dopa. (This is a precursor to dopamine and a common treatment; I’m not to this stage yet.) Let’s try out the comic book:
“From out of the darkness springs our rescuer: L-DOPA!”

Since the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, you have a choice of comic book villains that are killing off the neurons . I think my favorite (purely from the sound) is…..(villainous music playing)…
(This is a herbicide that I’ve never been exposed to in my life.)

Another choice of a villain would be….
Sounds a little clunky? Work with this one…turns out the alpha-synuclein buildup may be defeated by ……the SUMO protein! Now there’s a comic-book hero!

The evil villain of your choice leaves behind its calling card of…Lewy Bodies. From a comic book standpoint, I’m picturing these as roly-poly blobs, distant cousins to Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and…Louie. Lewy Bodies are indeed are a blob of proteins, including the evil alpha-synuclein.

Though my neurologist would be horrified to hear this, neurology provides a rich field for comic book characters. I’m still trying to work in “subthalamic nucleus” ( a brain location for deep brain stimulation, a surgery for Parkinson’s). I can hear Captain Kirk pleading with Scotty: “The Rotenone are attacking! Can’t you get more power out of the subthalamic nucleus?!”


About Laura Kennedy Gould

Author of "The Magic Trick -- Life with Parkinson's
This entry was posted in Parkinson's Basics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Parkinson’s – Attack of the Comic Book Characters

  1. Rosi says:

    Masterfully written! Thank you Laura, for your comic book take and for giving me ideas of how to present the concept of neuroplasticity to a PD support group!

  2. Jean Davis says:

    It appears that another side effect is to heighten your skill at verbal gymnastics and your sense of irony. Those were already two of your most outstanding qualities that I enjoy when we meet but now I can get an extra dose in writing. This is so much better than Facebook drivel — carry on Laura!

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