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Effect of Playing Music on Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

By Douglas W. Lindstrom, Ph.D. · September 1st, 2013

This is a much needed update to the blog.
In 2007, I was given the news that I had more in common with Michael J. Fox than just being born and raised in Canada.  I first noticed minor symptoms (such as a mild hand tremor) of an imminent medical problem as early as 2001.  At the time I was a member of a country band in Alberta and was known on stage as Doc Holiday.  The band leader was good at creating stage names; mine came from being the only musician he knew who had a Ph.D. in Materials Physics and a doctorate in holidays.  It was an exaggeration because I don’t have a doctorate in holidays; I only act as if I do.  Early in 2002, I purchased my first midi accordion and was coined Doc Holiday and his elektrodion.  I played in this and other bands until 2006.  Between Parkinson’s disease and escalating depression, I had to give up playing music and was not able to function as a scientist any longer.
It took some time, along with considerable love and caring from my wife, before this downhill spiral started to turn around.  The first step was the synchronistic discovery of some herbal products, that when used in conjunction with the prescription medication I was taking, lowered my mental stress level and allowed the depression to lift.  (  Coincidentally we started going to southern Arizona for the winter to avoid the wet coastal weather of Vancouver Island.  This helped reduce the depression also.
By educating myself about this disease I learned that to alleviate some of  its symptoms, I needed  an hour a day of sweat generating exercise, to eat healthy with lots of vegetables and very little red meat, and to drink a lot of water.  How much of this is responsible for allowing me to get well enough to join a country band in Arizona about three years ago, I can’t say for sure.  Last year we did about two dozen gigs over the nearly five months we were down south.  I have also able to engage in scientific pursuits again, mostly in the area of numerical modelling of non-linear differential equations, and have authored and co-authored several papers with group of physicists in Europe ( ).


This summer, I started a family band on Vancouver Island called Tarnished Silver.  My brother plays the guitar and is the lead male vocalist, Heather, a family friend is the lead female vocalist, my son Andrew plays back up and rhythm guitar, and I play a Roland FR-7x accordion ( ), a five string banjo, and sing harmony.  The band is backed with a Roland Bk-7m arranger ( ) which is primarily used as a drummer.  We recently played at my mother’s 90th birthday celebration, and did a fundraising concert at a local church.
As a kid I took accordion lessons starting at age twelve.  By fifteen, I had progressed as far as the music school I went to could teach me.  Having to change music schools, going into high school, and probably the fact that that the accordion was not cool at the time, prompted me to quit music lessons.

Since purchasing the new Roland accordion about a year ago, I have started to conscientiously practice music again, averaging well over an hour daily.  When I quit lessons fifty years ago I was just starting to learn the “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov.  I hope to have this piece mastered before we head south again in the fall.  Between exercise, music practice, and scientific commitments, I have no time for boredom. I do make sure to take time to rest; this is also vital.  The neurologist I go to is amazed with how well I am doing and insists that I keep it up.

I play the banjo and mandolin for fun although my wife says you can’t tell because apparently I don’t crack a smile when doing a fast banjo lick.  Besides fun, the accordion however is therapy.  The drill of doing scales and the repetitiveness of learning a difficult piece seems to cement pathways in my brain that want to disappear.  I notice the difference if I miss a couple of days practice.  I also make sure that every so often, I play in a manner that flushes emotions, especially if they are troubling.  This usually results in a streak of slow waltzes with complex chord changes that lasts an hour or more.  During this time I quite often shed a tear or two.  When I stop playing, whatever I was dealing with seems to have been resolved because I feel much better.

I am always on the lookout for activities and healthful products that aid in my battle against Parkinson’s disease and often share my story with those who will lend an ear.  My wife has found a new product ( ) which she is excited about and claims will help me even more.  I guess I am going to be guinea pig for a couple of months.  She is also into quilting which means that there are bits of fabric everywhere.  I suppose this or musical instruments; what can I say.

August, 2013

Effect of Stem Enhance, Stem Flo, and GABA on Tremors and Related Symptoms

By Douglas W. Lindstrom, Ph.D. · May 19th, 2009

On December 18, 2007, I was given the news that I shared more in common with Michael J. Fox than just being born in Canada.  I first noticed very minor symptoms such as a mild hand tremor as early as 2001.  At that time the medical consensus was that I had Benign Essential Tremors, like it was thought my maternal grandfather had.  In January 2008, I came across a product called Stem Enhance (manufactured by Stem Tech Inc.) and started taking four grams (eight capsules) of the product daily in doses of two capsules every four hours.

As a scientist, I wanted to monitor the effect of Stem Enhance on my body in a more quantitative fashion than just saying yes I feel better or no I don’t.  To establish a measurement scale, I listed the symptoms that a neurologist observed in December 2007, and established a semi-objective numerical scale for each.  The total symptom was then the sum of the individual ratings, monitored on a daily basis. I estimated a maximum and minimum perceived level every few days for each symptom, then took the average of the daily totals of minimum and maximum to arrive at a mean daily rating.

This rating system is shown in Table 1. A zero rating indicates no symptom whatsoever.  A rating of three is the maximum disability level I was willing to contemplate.  I did not feel that I could reliably break the rating into smaller levels based on a subjective impression for each symptom. I was also experiencing “restless leg syndrome” and poor sleeping patterns.  I had these symptoms prior to 2001 however so have ignored them in this analysis.

Table 1.  Rating  System

Symptom Level 0 1 2 3
left hand tremor level none <1/2 inch 1/2 – 1 inch >1 inch
left hand mobility excellent poor typing tough for playing music disabled
left hand lock-up/pain none slight moderate immobile
head tremors none slight moderate severe
shuffling none slight moderate severe
depression none impatience/sadness anger/frustration despair
clarity of thought perfect slight poor reasoning very foggy

Graph 1  Symptom Level Improvement

Graph 1 illustrates the total mean symptom level starting in 2004 and progressing to April 2009.  An average perceived symptom level of nine was experienced in mid 2006.  At that time I was diagnosed with stress induced depression and “burn-out” and had to leave work.  A slight improvement in the total symptom level as a result of a reduced stress level was observed.  I was prescribed L-Dopa to raise my dopamine levels in mid-2007 in an effort to lower the level of hand tremors.  The effects of this drug on had tremors was noticeable, but below the level of monitoring based on the measurement scale shown in Table 1.

I began taking Stem Enhance on the ninth of January 2008.  In less that a week, the  symptom level dropped from eight to about four and has slowly dropped to a level of about one-half to one over a period of about two years. A minor increase in symptom level was experienced at the end of January 2007.  I was running short of Stem Enhance and reduced my daily consumption to four capsules.  The effect showed up on the second day of the reduced product level.  Another minor increase was noted in mid-February when I was experiencing a few particularly stressful days.

I visited the Neurologist in June 0f 2008 and he saw a definite improvement in me.  At that time, all of the symptoms had either been reduced or disappeared.  I had earlier (in April) gone off anti-depressants, on the advise of a doctor, after taking them for fourteen years.  The symptoms that remained at that time were, left hand tremors, head tremors, left shoulder stiffness, and left hand lack of coordination

I started taking Stem Flo in October 2008.  The intent of this product is to clean the capillaries in the body allowing a better transport of adult stem cells into the surrounding tissue. At the same time I started taking GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) on the advise of a doctor of naturopathic medicine. It is a natural neurotransmitter and is thought to reduce the amount of dopamine required for proper nerve functioning.   The effects were to decrease the overall symptom level to about 0.5.  The only symptom remaining today is a slight hand tremor that happens about a third to half of my waking time, particular when I am stressed, tired, or hungry.  Relaxation, rest, exercise, and food selection and quality seems usually to reduce this to nearly zero.

May 16, 2009