What is Bradykinesia?
By: Richa Nakrani
Symptom of Parkinson’s disease or a side effect of certain medications
Unusually slow movements
No cure but can be managed in several ways
Bradykinesia refers to slowness in movement. It is one of the main symptoms a doctor looks for when diagnosing Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system that affects the parts of the body controlled by the nerves as well as movement. Bradykinesia results from a failure of the basal ganglia giving an output to reinforce the cortical mechanisms, and these mechanisms are what carry out the orders and signals for movement. There are abnormalities in sensory scaling and sensorimotor integration associated with this condition, and to some degree, the brain appears to attempt to and be able to compensate for the basal ganglia deficit. The scores on the bradykinesia akinesia incoordination test, or the B.R.A.I.N. test, determine the diagnosis. The test involves tapping keys on a keyboard fast and alternately for one minute.
Symptoms & Behaviors
There are many usual behaviors and symptoms that come with bradykinesia. In addition to a general slowness in physical actions, these include shuffling when walking, difficulty initiating movement (such as trying to get up from a chair), dragging one or both feet when walking, having very little facial expressions or an abnormal stillness, a decrease in automatic actions like blinking, freezing or muscle immobility, and difficulty with repetitive tasks such as tapping fingers or clapping your hands. Weakness, tremor and rigidity may play a role in initiating these symptoms of bradykinesia but do not provide the full story. For those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, bradykinesia is one of the causes that contributes to the loss of ability to speak clearly as the voice becomes softer and words become more difficult to understand over time. Another risk associated with having this condition is falling, which can lead to dangerous consequences.
Although these symptoms and behaviors can not be completely cured, Levodopa, dopamine agonists, MAO-B (monoamine oxidase type B) inhibitors, and amantadine are medications that can be used to improve slowness and other symptoms of bradykinesia. These medications are helpful because they increase dopamine action, a neurotransmitter that assists nerve cells in sending messages to one another. Research also highlights that music therapy can help in reducing bradykinesia. Lastly, lifestyle changes also contribute to managing bradykinesia. These include doing exercises to increase strength, balance, and flexibility, staying active through things like walking and swimming, and eating a nutrient and fiber rich diet.