Quick Project Snapshot

The gastrointestinal complications of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease causes losses in neural control in the digestive system as well as in the central nervous system.  Loss of neural control of digestive function commonly occurs before central change is detected.

Program Leaders: Dr Shanti Diwakarla, Dr Vicki Lawson, Dr David Finkelstein, Mr Mitch Ringuet, Dr Ruslan Pustovit, Prof John Furness.

Contact: Dr Shanti Diwakarla: lakshmi.diwakarla@florey.edu.au; Dr David Finlelstein: d.finkelstein@florey.edu.au

About 70% of people with Parkinson’s Disease have digestive problems, most commonly constipation.  Importantly for understanding the genesis of Parkinson’s Disease, the digestive disorders commonly precede the motor dysfunction.  The constipation could arise from disorders in the central nervous system or from disorders in the enteric nervous system. 

In this project, mice with a human mutation that gives rise to Parkinson’s Disease (in both humans and mice) will be used.  Physiological, pharmacological and structural approaches will be used to investigate whether central or enteric pathways are involved.


Ellett, LJ, Hung, LW, Munckton, R, Sherratt, NA, Culvenor, J, Grubman, A, Furness, JB, White, AR, Finkelstein, DI, Barnham, KJ, Lawson, VA: Restoration of gastrointestinal function in an MPTP model of Parkinson’s Disease. Scientific Reports (2016).

Systems Neurophysiology

In Systems Neurophysiology we seek to learn how the nervous system controls various bodily functions and how that control is altered in disease. Our disease focus includes not only neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, but also how the nervous system impacts on non-neurological diseases such as heart failure and inflammatory diseases.  A clear understanding of basic mechanisms is crucial in developing better therapies and reducing the impacts of illness. 

All Labs that operate in this Division

Autonomic Neuroscience LaboratoryDigestive Physiology and Nutrition LaboratoryNeurocardiovascular LaboratoryNeurovascular Biology LaboratoryRespiratory Neurophysiology LaboratoryViscerosensory Laboratory