Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease - Dr Asheeta Prasad

Dr Asheeta Prasad, is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher at UNSW School of Psychology, is a finalist of the Parkinson's NSW Young Researcher of The Year 2016.

Asheeta applies cutting edge technology of optogenetics and chemogenetics to find novel therapeutics for Parkinson’s Disease. Her recent publication shows simultaneous inhibition of Subthalamic nucleus (STN) and Ventral Pallidum (ventral GP), does not affect locomotor behaviour, yet has significant reduction in motivation (Prasad and McNally, 2016; Journal of Neuroscience). This data along with others show that STN and VP have roles beyond motor control.

Parkinson's disease affects an estimated 10 million individuals worldwide and 70,000 people in Australia. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease in Australia after dementia.Dr Asheeta Prasad Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of subthalamic nucleus (STN) and globus pallidus (GP) are current therapeutic surgical procedures for patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Yet little is known about the non-motor effects of DBS on behaviours, such as motivation, learning and memory. Asheeta’s research applies optogenetic technology in the rodent PD model to better understand the motor and non-motor effects of STN and GP manipulation. Optogenetics technology allows neural manipulation with millisecond control in freely moving animals.

Application of rodent models and optogenetics allows real time observation of neural manipulation on behaviour. This innovation advances knowledge of correlation of neural substrates and their contribution to specific behaviour.
Her recent publication shows simultaneous inhibition of STN and VP (ventral GP), does not affect locomotor behaviour, yet has significant reduction in motivation (Prasad and McNally, Journal of Neuroscience). This data along with others show that STN and VP have roles beyond motor control.

Her research aims to establish the independent roles of VP and STN on motor control and non-motor symptoms of PD.

The next part of the research asks whether optogenetic stimulation in these pathways can restore the motor and cognition deficits in an animal model of PD.

The outcomes from this proposal has therapeutic relevance as it will establish the effects of GP and STN manipulation in important behaviours. It will establish neural targets that rescue PD motor deficits with fewer side effects on other important behaviours. Asheeta’s research has significant translational value, the application of a rodent model to explore the precise role of STN and GP on motor control and non-motor symptoms of PD will:

  • allow better understanding of the nature of the motor diseases and allow correlation of the neural substrates affected,
  • aid diagnosis of the extent of motor deficits- predictive validity to human PD, and
  • guide surgery selection of the brain region for DBS manipulation-clinically translatable, where the brain region for DBS can be tailored to individual PD phenotype.

Overall outcomes from this project will assist in strategies to alleviate disabling motor and non-motor symptoms of PD.

To view other work by Dr Asheeta Prasad, please view the following:

Where Science Meets Art - Dr Asheeta Prasad Collaborates With Two Sydney Artsists For Exhibition

Brain Mechanisms In Drug Addiction - New Brain Pathways Revealed