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International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
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New data validates an association between trauma-related disorders and the development of Parkinson’s disease in military veterans

August 27, 2023

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — In a study of nearly 360,000 military veteran records released earlier this year in the Movement Disorders journal, researchers provide evidence that traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both trauma-related disorders, are risk factors for Parkinson’s disease (PD).   

While this correlation has long been suspected, the results of this study validate the hypothesis with the researchers’ case-controlled approach and consideration of comorbidities. This study further suggests that these common war-related illnesses may ignite biochemical changes that precede and fuel the development of Parkinson’s disease decades later.   

“While a link between head trauma and the later emergence of Parkinson’s has been widely accepted for some time, this paper is of interest for several reasons,” said Dr. Jon Stoessl, University of British Columbia and editor of the Movement Disorders Journal. “Similar to a prior report (White et al., Ann Neurol 2020), the authors have identified an independent and synergistic link between PTSD and PD. They examined a large cohort (nearly 72,000 cases and nearly 290,000 matched controls from the VA database), used a minimum lag time of 5 years between exposure and PD diagnosis, and have gone back as long as 60 years prior to the emergence of PD. Applying an unusual degree of rigor for this type of research, the authors ascertained a diagnosis of PD based on chart review by a movement disorders specialist in addition to administrative (diagnostic code and prescription) data. They furthermore restricted the definition of TBI and PTSD to events that occurred during active military service. The odds ratio (OR) for PD in those with TBI range from 1.5-2.0 (depending upon time of exposure) and for PTSD, the OR was 1.7-1.8. The findings not only confirm the importance of earlier TBI as a risk factor for later PD, but also point to the independent and synergistic importance of PTSD in future neurodegeneration. The findings thus have important implications for understanding the pathogenesis of PD and for the consideration of novel preventative and disease modifying approaches.”  

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About the 2023 MDS International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders®:  
The MDS International Congress is the premiere annual event to advance the clinical and scientific discipline of Movement Disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. Convening thousands of leading clinicians, scientists and other health professionals from around the globe, the International Congress will introduce more than 1,800 scientific abstracts and provide a forum for education and collaboration on latest research findings and state-of-the-art treatment options. 

About the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society: 
The International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society® (MDS), an international society of more than 11,000 clinicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about MDS, visit

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