Award will study innovative Parkinson’s treatment

Photo of Joanne McFarland O'Rourke.WMU College of Health and Human Services Director of Research JoAnne McFarland O'Rourke has recently received the 2015 Raymond Bauer M.D. Research Award from the Michigan Parkinson’s Foundation. Bauer was a neurology professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and the founding president of the Michigan Parkinson Foundation. The aim of the award is to help support research and to foster the study of Parkinson's disease among individuals with career interests in neurological disorders.

In addition to her role at WMU, O’Rourke maintains a private neurofeedback and counseling practice and is a student in the WMU interdisciplinary health sciences Ph.D. program. A chief aim of her research is to delineate treatment methods that address comorbid conditions that accompany Parkinson’s disease. Those conditions involve physical health, such as gait, balance and fatigue; mental health, such as depression and anxiety; and cognition, such as memory, word-finding and attention. As the conditions combine, it is often difficult for patients and practitioners to sort out comorbidities, including which symptoms take priority and which may be contributing to others.

According to O’Rourke, "The gradually progressive nature of Parkinson’s disease, the multiple facets of life affected by the disease, and the proven benefit of early diagnosis and treatment create an urgent need for finding ways to alleviate and delay symptoms for as long as possible." Her research will include a randomized, controlled study evaluating two neurofeedback treatment protocols; one will address physical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, while the other will target both physical and mental health aspects of the disease. The study is intended to address the comprehensive nature of the disease and lead to more effective, holistic approaches to treatment, in addition to delineating symptoms that can best be addressed without medication.