First film footage of Parkinson’s disease

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Something different today.

I have recently been made aware of the work of Arthur Van Gehuchten (1861–1914), a Belgian anatomist who provided the world with some of the earliest films of Parkinson’s disease. The collection of footage is very precious.

In this post we share a couple of the films, which should be of interest to scientists, clinicians, historian and layman alike.


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Dopamine 2016 conference in Vienna. Source: Dopamine 2016

Two weeks ago, I attended a 4 days conference in Vienna (Austria) where everyone in the world of Dopamine (the chemical in the brain that plays such a critical role in Parkinson’s disease) collected and compared notes. It was a very interesting meeting (set in a spectacular city), with lots of fascinating new discoveries.

During the third afternoon, I was particularly intrigued by something in the introduction of a presentation. The speaker (Dr Eugene Mosharov from Columbia University) displayed some historical film footage and spoke briefly of the contribution of Arthur Van Gehuchten. I was mesmerised and I asked Dr Mosharov after the talk about the source of his film. He kindly shared the information.

The footage is part of an article published in the journal ‘Lancet’ which reviewed the work of Van Gehuchten, but also provides a nice bit of historical background which gives the films some context:

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Title: Moving pictures of Parkinson’s disease.
Authors: Jeanjean A, Aubert G.
Journal: Lancet. 2011 Nov 19;378(9805):1773-4.
PMID: 22106466     (This article is OPEN ACCESS if you would like to read it)

The films can be downloaded from the Lancet website, or they can be found on Youtube. Here is the first film:

And the second film:

And the third film:

Six film clips are presented with the article, but Arthur Van Gehuchten actually filmed and collected over 3 hours of short sequences, which are now housed at the Cinematek (Royal Belgian Film Archive) in Brussels.

It is remarkable to consider that there were very few treatment options available when these films were made – L-dopa was still 50 years away! While some of the content is difficult to watch considering this fact, I thought it would be of interest to acknowledge Gehuchten’s contribution and to share the films here today.


The banner of today’s post was sourced from the journal ‘Neurology

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