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New hope for Parkinson's patients?

July 21, 2009 5:59:50 AM PDT
An accidental discovery by a neuroscientist may prove to be a breakthrough for people with Parkinson's disease.Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic was on a long-distance tandem bike ride with a friend with Parkinson's. After their bike trip, the friend noticed something very unusual. His handwriting dramatically improved and his hand was shaking much less than before the ride began.

Dr. Alberts was intrigued by the connection between the motor control improvement in his friend's arms, and how it could be connected to forced leg movement - the key word being "forced." Forced exercise requires the patient to peddle faster than they would peddle voluntarily, and with the tandem bike, a trainer regulates the pedaling rate, creating a tough workout.

"There was a 35 percent improvement in motor functioning for those patients who did the forced exercise compared to the voluntary exercise," said Dr. Alberts.

Researchers think the forced exercise on a bike could be triggering the release of some chemicals that may actually improve motor function.

ABC News contributed to this report.

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