Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no diagnostic test or any treatment. It affects around 7 people in 100,000 over the age of 40 causing frequent falls, eye movement abnormalities and intellectual difficulties. The average time from disease onset to death is eight years.
The diagnosis of patients with PSP, and differentiating it from Parkinson’s disease, relies on clinician experience. To ensure that clinical trials in PSP can be designed with reliable end-points, an objective measurement of disease severity is urgently needed to supplement the imperfect clinical measures currently being used.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) uses a handheld magnetic coil to induce an electrical field, providing a simple, non-invasive method to measure brain dysfunction. With our collaborators in Rome, we conducted a pilot study which showed abnormalities in PSP could be measured using TMS. Importantly we made discoveries that may: (1) provide a method for measuring disease progression by directly measuring the evolution of brain dysfunction in PSP; and (2) provide a technique for separating PSP from other Parkinsonian syndromes.
The intention of this project to be funded by the Brain foundation is to confirm these findings in a larger group of people with PSP and compare the responses to these TMS paradigms in people with clinically similar conditions, that is, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple System Atrophy. This will help determine if these findings are reproducable and disease specific.
The earlier, accurate diagnosis of PSP by objective means would be useful clinically, but would also enable possible treatment options to be studied more accurately and efficiently. The principles of treatment of PSP have implications for possible treatment options for other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.