Phone: 712-732-3349 - Redenbaugh Chiropractic: 801 Hudson Street, Storm Lake, Iowa 50588

How does Traumatic Brain Injury relate to Parkinson’s disease?

What does Traumatic Brain Injury and Parkinson’s disease, have in common?

If you say they both affect the brain you are correct.

But did you know they affect the same pathways of the brain.
This means they exhibit similar symptoms and may benefit from the same treatments.

The area of the brain affected is called the nigrostriatal pathways of the nigrostriatal neuron bundles (NSB).
Check out the picture below so you can get an idea of where these pathways are located.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Why is the Nigrostriatal brain pathway important?


This pathway is important to us for two main reasons.

The nigrostriatal bundle:

1. One of 4 main brain pathways that release Dopamine.
Dopamine is a brain chemical involved with motivation, movement, reward and addiction.

2. Pathway for cognitive movement also known as motor control.

With Parkinson’s disease the symptoms we see are called resting tremors.

This video shows what a tremor of the hand looks like.

Why is understanding TBI and Parkinson’s important to you?

The better we understand these conditions the better we can support those suffering with these conditions.

In my practice we take care of people injured in car accidents who have suffered head trauma and some of my senior patients have a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

We do not treat their symptoms directly; rather, we assist the body by realigning the nerve system with gentle and effective techniques. Techniques may include a gentle adjustment to the spinal column or needleless acupuncture.

It is important to be on the lookout for symptoms related to these conditions because early treatment can improve the quality of life.

Do you know someone affected by Traumatic Brain Injury or suffering with Parkinson’s disease?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is diagnosed on a spectrum from mild to severe.

Mild Traumatic Brain injury cases often go undiagnosed after car accidents.
Severe TBI symptoms are often more obvious, but in either case it is important head injuries are recognized and treated early.

TBI affects more than 1.7 million people per year in the US. 1.
TBI occurs when the brain strikes the skull with damaging force inside the head.

The most common causes of TBI are from physical head trauma.
Motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries can cause head trauma.
The most common type of sports head injury is caused by contact sports like football and ice hockey.

Head trauma also includes injuries related to bomb explosions, like those affecting our war veterans.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident or suffered a head trauma related to sports be certain to get a thorough examination from your health care provider.

We can understand physical stress damaging the brain, hence the expression in contact sports “Getting your bell rung.”
But, did you know chemicals can also damage the brain?

TBI injured and Parkinson’s sufferers exhibit similar symptoms because the same part of the brain is injured, but by different types of stress.

“Now scientists at UCLA have found the mechanism for this elevated, long-term risk of Parkinson’s [And Traumatic Brain Injury]: the loss of a specific type of neuron.” 4.

What brain neurons are affected with TBI?

Nigrostriatal neurons.

Nigro means dark area and striatal means striated (ribbed), like corduroy material.
These neurons release dopamine in the brain.

What does Dopamine do again?

Dopamine is one of 3 main brain chemicals involved with human motivation, movement, reward and addiction.

The other two chemicals are Serotonin and Norepinephrine.
When all three brain chemicals are in balance so is our mood.

traumatic brain injury dopamine

Brain Dopamine Brain Pathway

Traumatic Brain Injury is caused by the physical stress of head trauma, but what causes Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 60,000 people per year in the US. 3.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown but several factors appear to play a role.

“For people living with Parkinson’s, understanding the impact of environmental factors is crucial as nearly 85 percent have no idea why they developed Parkinson’s. There is no clear genetic link,” 2.

What are the known factors that may play a roll with Parkinson’s disease.

1. Genetics
2. Environmental triggers

Parkinson’s genetic risk increases if close family members suffer from the disease.
Also know that Parkinson’s disease primarily affects men over the age of 60. 5.

Environmental triggers may include exposure to the chemicals Heptachlor and Paraquat.

Heptachlor was widely used in the United States as a pesticide from 1953 – 1974.
Although no longer widely used, heptachlor is still found in the environment especially in our food in trace amounts. 6.

In Iowa heptachlor has been banned for use as a mosquito and fie repellent.

For more about possible exposure sources to Heptachlor:

Paraquat on the other hand is a chemical herbicide used for weed and grass control.
First produced for commercial purposes in 1961 it is still the most widely used pesticide globally.
In the US its use is now restricted. But, it too is still found in the environment in trace quantities.

More facts about Paraquat:

Chemical and physical stress can damage the brain’s pathways that lead to reduced serum (blood) Dopamine levels.

Decreased Dopamine causes an imbalance with the brain chemicals Seretonin and Norepinephrine. All three chemicals must be in balance in order for us to maintain balanced emotional moods.

Decreased Dopamine has been associated with depression, addiction & drug dependency, and in severe cases like Parkinson’s disease, we observe tremors.

These chemicals relate to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder too. To learn more about PTSD take a closer look here.

Brain Dopamine Deficiencies

What are the known symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury? 
TBI sufferers may experience the following:
Mental: amnesia, confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding spoken language, poor concentration, difficulty thinking, problems creating new memories, and difficulty recognizing common objects.
Mood: anger, anxiety, apathy, depression or loneliness.
Behavioral: unusual laughing and crying, aggressive, impulsive, irritable, repetitive words or actions.
Body: unbalanced, blackouts, fainting or dizziness, and fatigue.
Eyes: dilated pupils, and unequal dilation of pupils
Vision: blurry vision and sensitive to light
Olfactory/Auditory: loss of smell and sensitivity to sound
Speech: slurring speech and impaired speaking voice

What are the known symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Tremors: occur while at rest, and affect the hands/limbs/body
Mental: amnesia, confusion in the evening hours, dementia, or difficulty thinking and understanding
Mood: anxious, apathetic, depressed
Muscles: difficulty standing, walking, and bodily movements, occurrence of involuntary movements, muscle are rigid, coordination problems, muscles contract in rhythm, and slow body movements
Olfactory: distorted smelling sense, inability to contrast smells, and loss of smell
Face: stiff jaw and less facial expressions
Sleep: nightmares, sleeping during the day, and early waking
Body: dizziness, lack of balance, restlessness, slow shuffling gait and fatigue
Speech: speaking impairments, soft-spoken, and spasms in the neck/voicebox


Traumatic Brain Injury and Parkinson’s disease both affect the same parts of the brain – Nigrostriatal brain neurons.
Nigrostriatal nerve pathways release Dopamine.
Dopamine is involved with our moods, motivation and physical movement.
TBI and Parkinson’s affect over 400,000 people per year (combined) in the US.
TBI is caused by head trauma.
Parkinson’s is possible causes include genetics and environmental triggers.
Two known environmental triggers are Heptachlor and Paraquat.



Picture Sources:

If you or someone you know has been injured in a sporting or vehicle accident get treatment. We are here to help. If you have questions, call us today.

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Phone: 712-732-3349 - Redenbaugh Chiropractic: 801 Hudson Street, Storm Lake, Iowa 50588