The award will aid in the study of Stony Brook's Stress...

The award will aid in the study of Stony Brook's Stress Management and Resilience Training on patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Credit: Randee Daddona

A grant by the Parkinson's Foundation is to be used by Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine to study the effect of stress management on patients newly diagnosed with the disease. 

The $15,000, one-year community award is to launch a pilot study to evaluate the effectiveness of Stony Brook’s Stress Management and Resilience Training (SMART) on  patients newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The program brings groups of Parkinson’s patients and caregivers together with clinical psychologists at Stony Brook, where a focus is placed on the behavioral health aspects of Parkinson’s care. 

The money was awarded to Dr. Adam Gonzalez, the director of behavioral health and founding director of the Mind-Body Clinical Research Center at Stony Brook.

The pilot study is a collaborative effort between Gonzalez from the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health, and Dr. Guy Schwartz and Dr. Carine Maurer from Stony Brook’s Department of Neurology.

Schwartz, co-director of the Parkinson’s & Movement Disorders Center at Stony Brook, said the health system sees between 600 and 700 Parkinson’s patients each year.

Stony Brook will adapt and test the SMART program to alleviate mental health symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers, said Maurer, an associate director at Stony Brook.

“Most people are familiar with the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors and slowness,” Maurer said. “A large majority also struggle with non-motor symptoms like anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties and hallucinations.”

Maurer said the groups will focus on developing better coping mechanisms, healthy eating, the importance of exercise, stress awareness and relaxation techniques. The groups will meet remotely because of the threat of COVID-19, she added.

Over a third of patients with Parkinson’s nationwide experience mental health symptoms, according to Stony Brook. 

These mental health symptoms have been linked to severe consequences, including poor quality of life, functional impairments, and poor treatment compliance. In addition, caregivers of patients with Parkinson’s show increased risk for emotional and financial strain, reduced quality of life, and chronic mental and physical health symptoms. 

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