Welcome to the Research Web Site of
Giselle Petzinger, MD and Michael Jakowec, PhD.
Our research group includes both a basic research and clinical research components. In addition Giselle Petzinger is engaged in clinical care as a Movement Disorders specialist in the Department of Neurology here at USC. While this site is dynamic and we are constantly adding relevant items and new content please feel free to connect with us. We hope this site can highlight our research interests, share data and protocols, and play an active role in the larger research community. Some 16 years ago we started exploring the impact of exercise on animal models of Parkinson's disease, published our major observations, and now exercise is considered a standard of care for patients with Parkinson's disease. In fact in sunny California it is almost impossible to find a patient with Parkinson's disease who does engaged in exercise or physical activity. Therefore, it is also our goal to make this site useful not only to fellow researchers and clinicians but also to patients, caregivers, and the community who are interested in the effects of exercise on brain connectivity and plasticity. While it seems obvious now that exercise is essential for healthy living and may likely impact disease progression we have a critical need to understand the underlying mechanisms by which exercise changes the brain. That is the goal of our research.
Michael W. Jakowec, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Research, Neurology
Giselle M. Petzinger, M.D.
Associate Professor, Clinical Scholar
Department of Neurology
Keck School of Medicine
Department of Neurology
1333 San Pablo St. MCA-241
Los Angeles, CA, 90033
Lab: (323) 442-3367
A Change of Mind: Rethinking How We Treat Neurodegenerative Disorders
It is hard to believe but there was actually a time when exercise was not considered in any form a potential treatment modality for neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease. However, with time and a growing body of evidence researchers and clinicians have begun to appreciate the potential application of exercise throughout life from childhood to old age including those battling brain disorders of all types. We all know exercise is good for you but we cannot stop there. Ongoing basic and clinical research in the labs is focused on elucidating the underlying mechanisms by which exercise is able to impact brain health and modify disease progression.
Types of Exercise: Why it Matters?
We used to think it did not matter what type of exercise your did; just do what every you like. Now the game has changed based much on our research and that of others in animal models and in patients with brain disorders. The human brain needs to be told what to do and guided to translate behaviors into permanent neuronal circuits. Much of our world is automatic, where many motor and cognitive behaviors are automatic. These can be disrupted or lost in aging and in brain disorders. We need to regain this lost automaticity. Practice, intensive exercise, and forms of activity that target specific neuronal circuits can be exploited to begin to regain these lost characteristics. Research in our animal models an din patients with Parkinson's disease are helping us to identify these mechanisms and better direct treatments for people with Parkinson's disease and those who want to enjoy health aging.
Modifying Disease Progression
While we know exercise is good for you and that epidemiological studies indicate that those who engage in exercise over a life time have a reduced incidence of many brain disorders we currently cannot say it is a cure. What we need to know is if exercise can modify disease progression.
The Jogger's Brain: Exercise as a Neuromodulator
Exercise Targeting Circuit Specific Changes
If you want the take home lesson form all our work and the efforts of many researchers in this field it would be these points:
Make your physical activity a learning modality
Engage the thinking parts of your brain; stay goal orientated
Get feedback; have a index of your success either form yourself, a trainer, a Fitbit, or a friend
Break a sweat since aerobic exercise induces processes that target the brain
Repetition, duration, endurance, specificity are key