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Reviews in the Neurosciences

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Volume 23, Issue 4


Breaking away from dopamine deficiency: an essential new direction for Parkinson’s disease

Gregory L. Willis
  • Corresponding author
  • The Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Coliban Medical Centre, 19 Jennings Street, Kyneton, VIC 3442, Australia
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  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Cleo Moore
  • The Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Coliban Medical Centre, 19 Jennings Street, Kyneton, VIC 3442, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Stuart M. Armstrong
  • The Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Coliban Medical Centre, 19 Jennings Street, Kyneton, VIC 3442, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2012-06-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0037


For the past 40 years Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been intrinsically associated with dopamine (DA) deficiency of the nigrostriatal DA system. One of the fundamental strengths of this theoretical approach is based on a presumed relationship between the degree of DA deficiency and the severity of motor impairment in the disease and its models. However, detailed examination of a substantial number of exemplary preclinical and clinical studies reveals that any such interpretation is overoptimistic and suggests that DA deficiency may be merely an epiphenomenon of a larger process underlying this disorder. Such a conclusion is based on numerous examples of miscarriage of basic principles of good scientific practice including (i) failure to thoroughly examine the adverse effects of DA replacement, (ii) drawing of statistical inference without recognising excessive spread of measure thereby lessening the importance of outliers, (iii) confounding independent and dependent variables within the scientific paradigm, (iv) overlooking fundamental principles of modern pharmacology, (v) confusing correlation with causation in linking cause and effect and (vi) disinclination to incorporate conflicting findings thereby infringing the quintessential scientific principle of tertium quid. This review demonstrates the inherent risks and dangers in the incontrovertible defence of DA deficiency theory and serves to address the ethical problems that emerge from the clinical application of scientific findings. There is increasing interest in new directions for PD research by dimming down the current emphasis on the importance of DA deficiency and its replacement. This would provide genuine hope and a new direction for the sufferers of a most debilitating disease.

Keywords: adverse effects of dopamine replacement; brain imaging; dopamine deficiency; dopamine overdosing; dopamine replacement; Parkinson’s disease

About the article

Gregory L. Willis

Dr. Gregory Willis, A.A. (S.U.N.Y.), B.A. (S.U.N.Y.), PhD (La Trobe). M.A.P.S. Dr. Willis was trained in the neurosciences as a physiological psychologist undertaking university training at the State University of New York from where he was awarded his bachelor’s degree. He read for his PhD while undertaking collaborative research at La Trobe University School of Behavioural Science and Melbourne University Department of Zoology dealing with various aspects of Parkinson’s disease. He undertook postdoctoral work at La Trobe University Department of Psychology and has been affiliated with Monash University Department of Psychiatry for more than 30 years in areas dealing with neuropsychiatric disease, various forms of anorexia and drug addiction. He has been involved in drug development and the innovation of non-invasive treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders for the past 16 years. He is an active member of the Australian Psychological Society and is on the Board of The Australasian Chronobiology Society. He is the Director of the Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience in administration, the practice of basic science, and is the director of the Bronowski Clinic.

Cleo Moore

Ms. Cleo Moore is a Research Scholar and a Research Assistant at the Bronowski Institute and is partaking in an accelerated research training program. She is currently undertaking university study to further her education in physiological psychology and the neurosciences and is a fully qualified Yoga instructor with ongoing interest in stress reduction and relaxation therapies. She provides valuable input into the physiological effects of stress and methods of stress reduction for patients with neurological disorders that attend the Bronowski Clinic. Cleo is also a professional photographer and videographer with extensive experience in using these skills in assessing patients attending the Bronowski Clinic and in laboratory studies.

Stuart M. Armstrong

Professor Stuart Armstrong, BSc (London), PhD (La Trobe), M.A.P.S., was Reader and Associate Professor of Psychology at La Trobe University, then Professorial Fellow and Adjunct Professor at the Brain Sciences Institute, Swinburne University. He has worked on rodent hypothalamic hunger and thirst mechanisms, then on circadian clocks in rodents and Australian marsupials. He and his group pioneered the work describing how melatonin entrains the mammalian circadian pacemaker (SCN), acting as an internal zeitgeber and a chronobiotic for combating jet lag. He has also worked in research institutes in Germany and the United States, and has consulted for International pharmaceutical companies on the therapeutic efficacy of melatonin analogues. He is a Professorial Fellow at the Bronowski Institute and runs programmes for the behavioural management of sleep disorders at the Epworth and Austin hospitals in Melbourne.

Corresponding author

Received: 2012-01-11

Accepted: 2012-04-15

Published Online: 2012-06-20

Published in Print: 2012-08-01

Citation Information: , Volume 23, Issue 4, Pages 403–428, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2012-0037.

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