Conference Coverage

Conference News Roundup—European Academy of Neurology


A Swiss study obtained more detailed results regarding absenteeism in the workplace. A group of 700 working migraineurs reported losing an average of 32 days per year because of migraine. This rate is similar to that reported in the French study. But there were significant differences depending on the specific type of headache, according to study author François Cadiou, CEO of Healint in Singapore. “With an average of more than 56 working days missed per year, patients with chronic migraine had the highest rate of absenteeism. People with episodic migraine were unable to go to work on 33 days of the year, while those with low-frequency episodic migraine took an average of 15 days off because of their condition.” Another finding has implications for preventive measures: the number of sick days was not always constant. In fact, the total steadily increased, and with it the amount of medication taken if patients indicated anxiety or depression as a symptom or trigger at least once within the 28-day observation period. In light of the outcomes presented, experts at the EAN Congress have issued a call for increased investment in migraine research and prevention, citing the advantages to society.

Both studies were funded by Novartis Pharma.

Parkinson’s Disease Progression Varies by Gender

A current study has now furnished the first neurophysiologic evidence that Parkinson’s disease progresses differently in women than in men. “Numerous demographic studies have provided evidence that men contract Parkinson’s disease nearly twice as often as women. What was unclear, however, was whether a gender-specific pathophysiology exists as soon as the first symptoms appear,” said Maja Kojovic, MD, PhD, a consultant neurologist at Ljubljana University Medical Center in Slovenia.

The international research team proceeded from the concept that in early Parkinson’s disease, functional changes can be detected in the primary motor cortex (M1) using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). If pathophysiology differs between genders in Parkinson’s disease, they hypothesized, it will be reflected in differences of M1 TMS measurements.

Thirty-nine newly diagnosed and untreated patients with Parkinson’s disease (23 males) were assessed using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). Then the patients and a group of healthy controls underwent TMS measurements of motor thresholds of the brain, input–output curve, short interval intracortical inhibition, cortical silent period, and intracortical facilitation. Brain plasticity was also measured using paired associative stimulation.

The UPDRS tests did not yield any differences in motor scores between the genders. However, the female patients had a less steep input–output curve than the male patients on the side of the brain more affected by Parkinson’s disease.

The women with Parkinson’s disease also exhibited better preserved short interval intracortical inhibition in both hemispheres, compared with affected men, and tended to have a better response to the paired associative stimulation protocol on the side less affected by symptoms. No gender-specific differences were determined, however, in the motor thresholds, intracortical facilitation, and the cortical silent period. The healthy control group did not show any gender or interhemispheric differences for any of the TMS parameters measured. “The detected gender differences in corticospinal and intracortical excitability in patients with early untreated Parkinson’s disease represent differences in disease pathophysiology. Gender may also prove to be a relevant factor when choosing appropriate treatment,” said Dr. Kojovic.

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