Abstract Title:

Parkinson's disease as a neuroendocrine disorder of circadian function: dopamine-melatonin imbalance and the visual system in the genesis and progression of the degenerative process.

Abstract Source:

Nutr Neurosci. 2009 Jun;12(3):135-40. PMID: 19145986

Abstract Author(s):

Gregory L Willis

Article Affiliation:

The Bronowski Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Neurosciences Section, Coliban Medical Centre, Kyneton, Victoria, Australia. [email protected]


For more than 50 years, Parkinson's disease (PD) has been conceptualized as a product of nigro-striatal dopamine (NSD) system degeneration. In spite of a growing body of evidence depicting the mammalian brain as an interrelated complexity of circuitous systems, dopamine (DA) deficiency of the NSD is still regarded as the main problem, with DA replacement being the purpose of therapeutic intervention. For at least 191 years circadian involvement in various aspects of PD, including depression and insomnia, has been recognized as an integral part of the symptom matrix of PD and yet attempts to elucidate the involvement of this system is uncharted territory. The present review attempts a major reorganization of mammalian brain into a coordinated complex involving the NSD and the retinal hypothalamic tract (RHT) as the primary systems involved in the retino-diencephalic/mesencephalic-pineal (RDMP) axis. Secondary systems including the lateral hypothalamus (LH), the area postraema (AP) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN) also form an integral part of this system as they have been shown to be either intimately related to the primary systems of the RDMP axis or have been shown to be significantly involved in the expression and treatment of PD. A large volume of evidence suggests that the RDMP axis is activated during the course of PD and during therapeutic intervention. Four types of neurotoxicity associated with melatonin are identified and the susceptibility of various parts of the RDMP axis to undergo neuropathological change, the tendency for melatonin to induce PD-like behavioural toxicity, and the relationship of this to PD symptomotology are described. This includes adverse effects of melatonin on motor function, hypotension, the adjuvant use of benzodiazepines, depression, insomnia, body weight regulation and various biochemical effects of melatonin administration: all problems currently facing the proposal to introduce melatonin as an adjuvant. It is suggested further that traditional DA replacement may well work by exerting its effect upon the circadian system, rather than simply replacing deficient DA. Activation of the circadian function by antagonizing melatonin with bright light not only has therapeutic value in treating the primary symptoms of PD but it shares a common mechanism with L-dopa in reducing the occurrence of seborrheic dermatitis. Concepts at the centre of understanding pineal function in PD, including pineal calcification, melatonin deficiency, symptomatic versus protective features of melatonin and antioxidative effects, are explained in a counterintuitive context. Intriguing propositions including the role of the retina in the aetiology of PD and that the nigra functions as a retina in this disorder are presented with the intention to provide a new understanding of the underlying compromised function in PD and to provide new treatment strategies. For the first time, abundant evidence is presented describing PD as an endocrine disorder of melatonin hyperplasia. The role of circadian interventive therapies and internal desynchrony in the aetiology and progression of PD provides a new direction for understanding the underlying physiology of a disease which is currently in a state of impasse and provides new hope for those who suffer from its debilitating effects.

Study Type : Review

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