A Consortium for Gut-Brain Communication in Parkinson’s Disease

May 2022 Council

Lead Division/Office


Point(s) of Contact

Terez Shea-Donohue, Ph.D.

Executive Summary

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common and fastest growing neurodegenerative disorder, with approximately 60,000 Americans diagnosed annually. The incidence of PD increases with age regardless of gender and treatments target only symptoms as no therapies exist for the neurodegeneration in PD. More than 50% of patients who develop PD have a history of bowel complaints, predominantly constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, and nausea, which often precede the onset of motor symptoms. These findings indicate that gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction may be an early manifestation of the disease and that the gut may be an unexplored diagnostic and/or therapeutic target. An NIDDK sponsored a workshop focused on the gut-brain axis in PD recognized progress in this area required an infrastructure to support a multidisciplinary approach between investigators in neurology and gastroenterology. In addition, research into the temporal relationship between GI symptoms and disease progression in PD needed larger and longitudinal collections of patient data and biospecimens. The goal of this initiative is to accelerate research progress by promoting partnerships across currently siloed clinical disciplines to investigate the role of the gut in the etiology and progression of PD. Given the evidence that gut health significantly impacts brain morphology and function, research in this area may be applicable to other neurodegenerative disorders that involve dysfunction of the GI tract.