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Congratulations to Sampada Chaudhari

3rd year TCOM student, Sampada Chaudhari won the Outstanding Presentation Award from the Institute of Healthy Aging at the UNT Health Science Center Research Appreciation Day held March 27-31, 2023.     Sampada presented our collaborative work with Dr. Chris Bishop at Binghamton Univ, funded by The Dept. of Defense, where we found a critical role for a dopamine-regulating protein controlling dopamine release capabilities in the brain that was limited to the severe stages of the disease.  This sheds new light on the critical role of dopamine in motor impairment. Robert McManus and Walter Navarrete, along with Sampada, analyzed hundreds of samples collected at Binghamton to bring forth this highly novel result.


Our Preprints on Bioarchives (bioRXiv)

Our most recent exercise study shows that a moderate intensity regimen in a Parkinson's disease rat model will promote recovery of established motor deficits, with evidence of its efficacy in correlation with reduction of 2 blood-based biomarkers.


Our work showing why motor symptoms do not appear in Parkinson's disease until nigrostriatal dopamine neuron loss is substantial reveals new insights into the mechanisms of hypokinesia.

Our work showing loss of dopamine neurons corresponds to greatly reduced expression of GDNF receptors has implications for why GDNF trials may have not met primary end points.


December 27, 2022

Our work drawing comparison of aerobic exercise impact between early-stage patients and a rat genetic model of Parkinson's disease featured on the CDMRP Parkinson's Research Highlights News for 2022. 


August 11, 2022

Drs. Salvatore and Nejtek presentation at the University of Hard Knocks hits the markOver 40 patients and their caregivers attend the presentation of how the Punching Out Parkinson's program at Paulie Ayala's gym is helping both motor and cognitive performances.   See "Our presentations and public outreach" page for photos of the event.


July 21, 2022

Presentation and luncheon at the University of Hard Knocks for Punching out Parkinson's

Mark your calendar for August 11th at noon, as Dr. Salvatore and Nejtek will present the results of their evidence that the non-contact boxing program at Pauli and Leti Ayalas gym here in Fort Worth is helping alleviate Parkinson's symptoms.  Lunch will be provided.  Please RSVP by Aug 5th.  See flyer on the "Our presentations and public outreach page" for more information.


June 7, 2022

Paper accepted in Journal of Parkinson's Disease.

The Salvatore, Nejtek, and Cunningham Labs combine their work in a rat genetic Parkinson's model (Pink1 knockout) and early-stage Parkinson's disease patients to determine exercise impact between the two species.  There are many ways for the patient to engage in aerobic exercise (cycling, brisk walks, dancing, swimming, etc) but the common denominator in all is their impact on heart rate.  Here we report that early-stage Parkinson's patients enrolled for at least 3 months in the non-contact boxing program, Punching Out Parkinson's, at the School of Hard Knocks run by the husband/wife team of Leti and Paula Ayala (former world-chamption bantam weight boxer), had significantly improved motor and cognitive function with an increase in heart rate in the moderate intensity range.  We then determined at what treadmill speed would the knockout rat need to run to get a similar increase in heart rate.   We also found evidence of improved motor function in the exercise-experienced rats.  This work moves to establish cross-species translation avenues to evaluate the neurobiological impact of aerobic exercise. The paper will be published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease later this month. UPDATE: Here is the link to the study:  paper


May 25, 2022

Congratulations to Isabel Soto

3rd year doctoral student and candidate, Isabel Soto, has been selected as a Neuroscience Scholars Program Fellow, on behalf of the Society for Neuroscience Professional Development Committee.  This award comes with a number of excellent opportunities for her further training and development as a neuroscientist.   We are incredibly proud of you, Isabel!


May 2, 2022

Accepted manuscript in press in Geroscience

We recently received good news that our manuscript will be published in a top tier journal in aging research.  This study combines the efforts of three labs to examine the question of what compartment of the nigrostriatal pathway has deficient dopamine signaling that produces parkinsonian signs.  Parkinsonian signs are highly prevalent in those over age 60 and are very similar to those of Parkinson's disease.  Our results point to deficient dopamine function in a long-neglected component of the nigrostriatal neuron, the somatodendritic region in the substantia nigra, as a mechanism of parkinsonian signs.  The further good news is that there is still plasticity at older age wherein parkinsonian signs can be alleviated, by augmenting dopamine signaling in the substantia nigra. doi 10.1007/s11357-022-00583-7


April 8, 2022

Congrats to Isabel Soto

At the Southern Gerontological Society  43rd Annual meeting in Panama City, FL, our own Isabel Soto is winner of 1st place for Best Student Poster in presentation of her work "Exercise is a protective factor for motor and cognitive function in early-stage Parkinson's Disease"Awesome job, Isabel.


March 15, 2022

Congrats to Isabel Soto!

Hearty congratulations to Isabel Soto, who has successfully defended her dissertation proposal entitled "The Impact of Exercise on Cognition, Motor Functioning, Biomarkers, and Neural Mechanisms of Prodromal and Early-Stage Parkinson’s Disease: A Translational Study Using the Pink1 Knock-Out Rat" passing with distinction.


December 15, 2021

Published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

With Dr. Kasanga as first author, and Dr. Tom Cunningham as a key collaborator, we have shown the exercise intensity and frequency needed to mitigate the onset of aging-related Parkinsonian signs in older rats.  We determined that an exercise intensity that produces a 25% increase in heart rate above baseline will mitigate the onset of parkinsonian signs within 8 weeks after initiation in previously sedentary older rats.  This study establishes a baseline upon which to evaluate the efficacy of exercise needed for a highly significant health benefit.  

Cardiovascular Metrics Associated With Prevention of Aging-Related Parkinsonian Signs Following Exercise Intervention in Sedentary Older  Rats

November 19, 2021

Impact of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury as a Parkinson's disease risk factor

Dr. Vicki Nejtek publishes a high impact study showing very specific cognitive tests may be able to detect an issue with executive function that is also evident in early-stage Parkinson's disease patients.  This study was covered by 12 media outlets.Premature cognitive decline in specific domains found in young veterans with mTBI coincide with elder normative scores and advanced-age subjects with early-stage Parkinson’s disease


July 19, 2021

A hearty welcome to the lab

We are pleased to announce three outstanding new additions to the lab.   Kirby Doshier joins us from UNT-Denton.   Robert McManus has joined our lab as full-time research assistant.  Walter Navarrete joins our lab in early August as full time research assistant.


March 30, 2021

Congratulations to Ella A. Kasanga!

 Ella defended her dissertation entitled  "Strategies and mechanism to reduce locomotor impairment in aging and Parkinson's disease" with distinction in unanimous vote by her committee.  She will officially be Dr. Kasanga at the UNTHSC commencement ceremonies May 14, 2021.


January 16, 2021. 

Published in Journal of Parkinson's Disease

My collaborator, Dr. Vicki Nejtek and I, along with our co-authors and colleagues, publish a review regarding the potential utility of the Iowa Gambling Task as a companion measure for detecting prodromal Parkinson's or gauging the risk for therapuetic non-compliance.


May 11, 2020

Ella Kasanga awarded Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the Parkinson's Foundation.Ella Kasanga will be joining the laboratory of collaborator Professor Jason Richardson at Florida International University to research the impact of exercise on astrocyte-related function in Parkinson's disease models.  Only two awards were given this year.  Congratulations to Ella!More information on this award can be located here.


 September 1, 2019

The Salvatore Lab has received an award from the Department of Defense Congressionally-directed Medical Research Program for the Parkinson's Research Program.We will evaluate the neurobiological mechanisms of exercise in two rodent models of Parkinson's disease.

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