A recent West Australian Neurological Research Institute (WANRI) clinical audit, designed to identify the psychosocial impact of Parkinson’s, showed that more than 50 percent of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s demonstrate mild to severe levels of depression, anxiety and stress.
WANRI Clinical Neuroscientist and Psychologist, Dr Michelle Byrnes and her team have trialled several computerised cognitive retraining programs designed to improve attention, visuospatial working memory (the ability to navigate the environment), information processing, and executive functioning capacity for people with Parkinson’s.
Dr Byrnes says the results showed memory and executive functioning are more resistant to treatment, which prompted her team to explore the use of experiential rehabilitation programs, such as ‘Dance for Parkinson’s,’ a regular class offered through local not-for-profit organisation, Parkinson’s WA.
“From this exploration, preliminary results indicated that the Dance for Parkinson’s specialised program enhanced physical functioning, as well as emotional and social wellbeing,” Dr Byrnes says.
“The impairment of motor function is considered the most obvious aspect of Parkinson’s, however emotional, social and cognitive difficulties often have the most significant impact on an individual with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.
“We intend on closing this gap through comprehensive evidence based research into holistic therapeutic programs such as dance therapy. This research will be carried out by practicing clinicians and professional dancers to ensure that the therapeutic programs are state of the art.”
Dr Byrnes says her team anticipate that the therapeutic benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s would include further enhancement of visuospatial working memory and executive functioning.
“It has been documented comprehensively within the literature that the most effective cognitive rehabilitation programs are an eclectic collage of task specific repetition, adaptation of task with increasing complexity, self-directed activities and creative experiential activities that reconnect the mind, body and spirit. The Dance for Parkinson’s program incorporates all of these four characteristics,” she says.
Find further information on dance classes offered through Parkinson’s WA on their website.