Research in Alberta

Over the past seven years, Parkinson Association of Alberta has contributed over a half million dollars to Parkinson’s research. In 2013, Parkinson Association of Alberta's Board of Directors initiated a Research Committee, led by Dr. Oksana Suchowersky, to steward research funds.

 

In 2017, Parkinson Association of Alberta contributed $200,000 to research by post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. Our Champions of Hope campaign aims to further medical research and innovation by contributing five million dollars over the next four years.

 

A core pillar of what we do.


Supporting research has always been a core pillar of Parkinson Association of Alberta. Alberta is home to many talented researchers who are taking on Parkinson's disease from a variety of perspectives, all aimed at making a difference in the lives of people affected by Parkinson’s.

 

Research and Innovation

There is incredible Parkinson's research happening right here in Alberta. Above all, it is inspiring to see the dedication our researchers demonstrate day in and out. And what drives them is more than obtaining a title, or publishing a scholarly article — it is the shared aspiration to improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson's and put an end to the disease altogether. 
 
So who are some of our researchers?  What do they study?  And how is their work relevant to Parkinson's disease?  We are pleased to showcase the following researchers that Parkinson Association of Alberta has funded.
 

Dr. Oksana Suchowersky, MD, FRCPC, FCCMG

Dr. Oksana Suchowersky, residing in Edmonton since 2010, is a Professor of Medicine (Neurology), Medical Genetics, and Pediatrics, as well as the Toupin Research Chair in Neurology at the University of Alberta.

 

Previously, she was Professor in the Departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, as well as Co-Director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, and Head of the Department of Medical Genetics (2005-2010).

 

Dr. Suchowersky developed the first Movement Disorders Program in Alberta and initiated the Presymptomatic Testing Program for adult onset neurological disorders at the University of Calgary. 

 

Her research interests lie in improving management of movement disorders, in particular Parkinson disease, and genetic testing of adult-onset hereditary disorders.

 

She serves on several editorial boards including Nature Clinical Practice Neurology, has produced more than 250 peer-reviewed publications, and is the editor of 2 books on Movement Disorders. Recently, she has taken on the additional task of co-leading the Precision Medicine Strategy for the Province of Alberta.

 

Dr. Suchowersky has received a number of awards over the years, and has been identified as one of the Best Doctors in Canada.
 


Dr. Richard Camicioli, MDCM, FRCPC

Dr. Richard Camicioli is Professor of Medicine (Neurology) at the University of Alberta. He trained in Medicine and Neurology at McGill University and completed a fellowship in Geriatric Neurology at Oregon Health and Sciences University and the Portland VA Medical Center where he was on faculty until coming to Alberta.

 

Dr. Camicioli is director of the Geriatric and Cognitive Neurology Program and a clinician-researcher in the Movement Disorders Program at the University of Alberta, and has current research funding from CIHR and Brain Canada.

 

His research interests are cognitive impairment in Lewy body disorders and gait changes in aging, and neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular disease. He has developed gait measures to predict cognitive decline and MRI imaging to track cognitive decline, particularly in PD.

 

Recent collaborative work has led to the development of novel biofluid-based biomarkers. Dr. Camicioli directs the Lewy Body Team for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, which is investigating biomarkers, predictors and correlates of cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. He serves on editorial boards for Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders and Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.


 

Dr. Oury Monchi

Dr. Oury Monchi is Professor and director for clinical research at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary. He is also the Movement Disorders Neuroteam leader at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

 

He holds the Canadian Research Chair (Tier 1) in non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease and the Tourmaline Oil Chair in Parkinson's disease. In addition, he was the founding director of the Quebec Parkinson Network. His lab has been a pioneer in using different neuroimaging techniques to study the origins and evolution of cognitive deficits in Parkinson's disease with the ultimate goal of early prediction of dementia in the disease.

 

Dr. Monchi's lab is currently funded by CIHR, NSERC, the Tourmaline Chair in Parkinson's disease, CCNA, Parkinson Alberta, and the Canadian Fund for Innovation.
 
 

Dr. Janis Miyasaki, MD, MEd, FRCPC, FAAN

Dr. Janis Miyasaki is a graduate of the University of Toronto, completing medical school, residency and a movement disorders fellowship under Dr. Anthony Lang. She joined the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in 2014 following 22 years at the University of Toronto. In 2015, Dr. Miyasaki became the Director of the Movement Disorders Program comprising 7 neurologists and a dedicated interdisciplinary team. 

 

She has held leadership positions at the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta, the International Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorder Society, and the American Academy of Neurology.

 

Dr. Miyasaki founded the first dedicated Palliative Care Program for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders at the University of Toronto in 2007. Since then, she has published original research on this topic and is viewed as the founder of palliative care for Parkinson’s disease.

 

In 2015, Dr. Miyasaki established the Complex Neurologic Symptoms Clinic at the Kaye Edmonton Clinic, University of Alberta with Dr. Wendy Johnston, an expert in ALS. This program provides care to all neurologic patients with palliative care needs.

 

Recent research includes a study of positive psychology applied to people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and a large scale randomized controlled study of ambulatory palliative care in Parkinson’s disease funded by NIH. A clinical fellow, funded by Parkinson Alberta, Dr. Miyasaki completed a published a study of capacity for advance care directive in people with Parkinson’s disease and cognitive concerns.

 

Over the past five years, Dr. Miyasaki’s work has appeared in more than 100 Peer-Reviewed Publications. 

 


Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert

Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert is an Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology & Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. 

 

Dr. Forkert’s research focuses on developing and evaluating new image processing methods, algorithms and software tools for the analysis of medical images. With a background in computer science, medical physics and medical image processing, Dr. Forkert and his graduate student are approaching Parkinson's disease from a technical perspective, by applying his formidable knowledge to research that looks at utilizing image-based biomarkers to differentiate patients with idiopathic Parkinson's syndromes from those with atypical Parkinson's syndromes. 

 

His research involves using a large variety of imaging modalities that reflect different physiological parameters and combining them to achieve a higher disease classification accuracy. With a wide-range of neurological diseases that can present in similar ways - Parkinson's disease, Multiple System Atrophy, Supranuclear Palsy, parkinsonism, etc. – the ability to better classify patients means a more tailored approach to treatment for the patient. Dr. Forkert’s research aims to help physicians better classify a patient’s disease, especially in the early stages.

 

 

Dr. Patrick Flood

Dr. Patrick Flood is a professor at University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry with a cross-appointment in Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Flood has been a full-time researcher since the 1980s, and has been working in the neuroscience and neuro-inflammation field for the last seven years.

 

Dr. Flood and his two graduate students are focused on determining the role of inflammation in PD and how they can affect change in that inflammation so that the disease will alter its progression. 

  

One of the keys to Parkinson’s is understanding very early on how this inflammation is activated and progresses, and intervene at that time. Secondarily, if an individual already has symptoms, how one can, in essence, reverse the process so instead of the destruction of nerve cells there could actually be regeneration. Dr. Flood’s research looks at understanding when inflammation is activated, how it progresses over a longer period of time, and ultimately, the development of anti-inflammatory treatments that are effective in stopping and/or reversing the progression of Parkinson disease.

 

 

Current and Previous Grant Recipients

It is important to recognize the achievements of our veteran researchers, as well as our future experts. Parkinson Association Alberta continues to keep Alberta on the forefront of Parkinson disease research by supporting these individuals. The important work that they conduct might otherwise not be possible without funding.

 

Current Grant Recipients


Megan Bryanton
Megan Bryanton is conducting research related to using light touch to improve balance in people with Parkinson’s. She’s an expert in biomechanics and motor control. Based at the University of Alberta,
her study hopes to improve rehab strategies and reduce falls in people Parkinson’s.
 
Emmanuella Takyi
Graduate student Emmanuella Takyi is another one of our bright minds who is conducting Parkinson’s research. Her background in biochemistry is guiding her investigation into potential molecular therapy to target Parkinson’s. Emmanuella is conducting her research at the University of Alberta.


 Linda Hyoungsun Kim
Linda’s research project, titled “Role of A13 Dopaminergic Neurons in Locomotion and Parkinson Disease” is being conducted at the University of Calgary.
 
 Tazrina Alrazi
A University of Calgary post-doctoral candidate, Tazrina is studying “Brain Mechanisms of Associative Memory Deficits in Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients, With and Without Parkinson Disease.”
 
Alexandru Hanganu
Alexandru’s post-doctoral work at the University of Calgary is titled “Structural and Functional Brain Connectivity Parameters Associated With MAPT, COMT, and APOE Genotypes in Patients with Parkinson
Disease With Mild Cognitive Impairment.”
 
Jennifer Andrews
Jennifer’s research involves the assessment of spinal cord function of people with Parkinson disease during deep brain stimulation implantation and following the procedure. Jennifer is working out of the University of Alberta.
 

Previous Grant Recipients

It is often the case that past research inspires and paves the way for future studies. The following are a few of the researchers that we are proud to have funded. To find out more about the studies that they each conducted, download the .pdf file at the bottom of the page.
 
  • Nicholas Strzalkowski
  • Dr. Nils Daniel Forkert
  • Naik Arbabzada
  • Monika Sharma

 

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