What motivated you to study in the field of Parkinson’s?
I worked as an orderly in a nursing home in Switzerland when I was studying medicine in the 90s. I had very simple daily tasks, including being responsible for dressing, washing, feeding and caring for the residents. I was able to develop close relationships since I spent several hours a day with them. Most had different forms of neurodegenerative diseases, many of them Parkinson’s disease. The disease that was abstract during my studies became very concrete. I saw the motor impairments, but also the personality changes caused by dementia. This landmark experience sparked my interest in the brain. Better understanding how the changes caused by neurodegenerative diseases lead to common symptoms became one of my professional goals. I hope that my research will one day help slow down or stop the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
What are the goals of your research project?
Information about the smells around us is processed in areas of the brain that are not exclusive to the sense of smell. They are also involved in other functions such as memory, emotions and reward. Different medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and craniocerebral trauma affect these areas of the brain and are therefore associated with olfactory disorders, in addition to their typical symptoms. We want to identify the integrity of the underlying brain circuits by measuring the olfactory function. We will then be able to understand, predict the development, and assess potential therapies for the mentioned conditions.