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Computer-based research into Parkinson’s disease

A University of St Andrews psychologist is conducting a study which could have major implications for patients of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Verity Brown’s research has already revealed that the condition results in problems in the ability to switch attention from one issue to another but her current work, which is supported by The Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, will focus on the reasons for this.

Dr Brown – who has just been appointed Head of the School of Psychology, the first female, non-professorial Head of School in the University’s history – will conduct her research with tests similar to computer games. In order to establish clear comparisons, the tests will cover patients who are being treated for Parkinson’s disease and their healthy carers. The research may have relevance for the development of non-biological intelligent systems, such as robots, capable of using stored information to classify and prioritise new input.

Dr Brown said, “The ability to pay attention to something and ignore something else is what protects us from being bombarded with information. The research explores how we are able to process things selectively and, specifically, will compare the differences between the brain circuits of Parkinson’s patients and their healthy carers.”

Parkinson’s disease, which is a fatal, progressive, neurodegenerative disease, affects over 10,000 people in Scotland. Early symptoms include tremor and difficulties in initiating movement.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS – You are invited to send a reporter/photographer to the School of Psychology, St Mary’s College, South Street, St Andrews at 10am on Wednesday 9 August 2000 when Dr Brown, her postgraduate research student Andrew Blackwell and Mrs Brown, a subject in the experiment, will demonstrate the computer-based testing.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: Parkinsons/standrews/chg/7august2000

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