The Parkinson's Institute

About The Parkinson's Institute

The Parkinson's Institute was incorporated in 1988, but its roots go back to 1982 when young adults began to appear in Bay Area emergency rooms unable to speak or move. At that time, Dr. J. William Langston, our founder, was a faculty member at Stanford Medical School and Chief of Neurology at Valley Medical Center in San Jose. After examining these young people, he became convinced that they had all the symptoms of advanced Parkinson's disease, a state which is normally seen only in elderly patients who have grown progressively worse over a period of many years. Dr. Langston made the decision to treat these patients with the medication used for Parkinson's, and the results were dramatic.

The patients literally became unfrozen and were able to walk and talk within two to three days of starting the medication. Their condition was traced to a drug known as MPTP (91-methyl, 4-phenyl, 1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), the result of a botched attempt to produce synthetic heroin. Shortly thereafter, he recognized that for the first time since James Parkinson described the disorder in 1817, medical researchers could use MPTP to create a laboratory model of Parkinson's disease in which to investigate its cause, treatment and cure.

The Institute is an independent, not-for-profit organization conducting patient care and research activities in the neurological specialty area of movement disorders. Our mission is to find the cause and cure for these disorders, to provide the best available medical care to patients with movement disorders, to investigate better treatment and diagnostic tools, and to develop prevention strategies.

Programs at the Institute are divided into three main areas: 1) patient care, 2) clinical research and 3) basic research. Having all these programs under one roof fosters close collaboration among physicians, patients and caregivers, and clinical and basic researchers, greatly enhancing productivity and creativity. Our "one-stop shop" approach also allows for a very focused and integrated attack on Parkinson's disease.

Research at The Parkinson's Institute is an exciting complex of multiple and interconnecting lines of inquiry, with an overall goal of understanding the history of these movement disorders, finding their cause(s) and developing better treatments. The continuous interaction and collaboration among our scientific team is a tremendous strength of the Institute and a model for medical research on any disease.