Using Mathematical models to treat Parkinson's disease

Elderly person clasping hands 

Scientists at the University of Western Sydney are now taking advantage of sophisticated software and IT tools to personalise medical care and deliver patient outcomes as doctors wrestle with increasingly complex drug combinations.

Dr Ahmed Moustafa from the UWS MARCS Institute is currently testing new computer models in Parkinson's Disease clinics to aid neurologists as they treat the disease.

"The ultimate goal is to rely on both human and machine intelligence—that is, both doctors and sophisticated computer models—to provide better treatment," says Dr Moustafa.  

"By using mathematical models of the brain, neurologists will be able to find best drug combinations and dosages for each individual patient." 

Parkinson's is a disease of reduced dopamine levels in the brain causing neural damage, shaking, and difficulty moving. Patients are prescribed many drugs, which may not be effective for some people, and can also cause side effects such as impulsivity, hallucinations and cognitive impairment.

"It is not known which combinations and dosage of drugs to give for every single Parkinson's patient, and neurologists do so by trial and error over a period of few months," says Dr Moustafa.

"In response, we have designed mathematical models to aid neurologists and minimize trial-and-error attempts. These are currently being tested in various Parkinson's clinics in Sydney."

The input to the mathematical model includes information about the patient, such as their age, severity of tremor, hallucinations and depression. Once this information is processed, the model provides information regarding the best drugs, such as l-dopa or dopamine agonists, and the correct dosage of each.

"Software solutions such as this are the future of medicine," says Dr Moustafa.

"One day doctors will be able to use these across a range of clinical settings to help manage complex and chronic disease."


7 August 2015

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer

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