Researchers’ Days: What it feels like to have Parkinson’s disease


The 2016 edition of the Researchers’ Days, organised by the FNR, attracted a large audience that took part in fascinating scientific experiments and had the opportunity to mingle with the present researchers. The Luxembourg Parkinson Study (NCER-PD) was of course there too, with a booth called ‘What Parkinson’s disease feels like’. We took a closer look!

In order to see how Parkinson’s disease feels like, hundreds of visitors tried on a Parkinson suit which simulates the two most representative motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease: the muscle rigidity and the tremors. At first glance, the suit looks like a race car driver’s outfit. But together with the elbow and knee bands, and the ankle, wrist and chest weights, this suit shows how rigid the muscles and articulations can be, and how difficult it is for Parkinson’s disease patients to move.

Effortless tasks become difficult

By doing a couple of exercises with the full Parkinson suit on, the visitors realised that simply raising the arm or the leg is difficult, and even the simplest tasks – such a tying your shoelaces or brushing your hair – require a lot of effort. The suit focuses on motor symptoms and can give an overview of how the patients feel in general, but the severity of the disease and the type of symptoms can vary from patient to patient.

Electrodes to simulate tremors

Muscle rigidity is not the only symptom that visitors could experience at the booth. By placing electrodes on the forearm, one could feel first-hand the tremors that are so characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. The tingling sensation coming from the electrodes is quickly translated to a significant tremor of the arm.

This made a simple action, such as moving a teaspoon of salt from a recipient to another, a difficult exercise. While this ended up covering the table cloth in salt and has caused quite some laughter among the younger visitors, it has also managed to make a lasting impression:

“This is not really funny! Since we do not have Parkinson’s disease, it is difficult to imagine what a patient goes through and how much the daily activities can be limited. The Parkinson suit and the electrodes allow us to be in the patient’s shoes.”

Because the disease affects other parts of the body as well, the researchers also showed the test used in the study for other symptoms. The visitors could test their dexterity, their sense of smell and their colour vision, thus understanding how the brain controls the senses and the movements and why they are affected by Parkinson’s disease.

About the Researchers’ Days

The aim of the Researchers’ Days is to encourage meetings and exchanges between the public and the researchers.

Through this event, the FNR aims to anchor science in the Luxembourgish society, to promote research and to attract attention to the omnipresence of science in our daily lives. Contrary to stereotypes, the researchers that participate in this event are happy to explain their work and are open for discussions.

In this environment, both children and adults can learn while having fun, and discover interesting research topics. The first day, which took place on Friday, 2 December, was dedicated to school students, while the second day (Saturday, 3 December) was open to the general public.

About the NCER-PD (Luxembourg Parkinson study)

NCER-PD stands for National centre for Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease. It represents a joint effort between 4 partners in Luxembourg that unite their expertise in Parkinson’s disease. This collaboration between all the research institutions focusing on Parkinson’s disease in Luxembourg has been funded by the FNR since Spring 2015.

This article was originally published on, where you can also read it in German and French.

Photos by Christof Weber

School students wearing the Parkinson simulation suit
The 2016 edition of Researchers' Days took place on 2 and 3rd December in Luxembourg (Rockhal Esch/Belval)
The 2016 edition of Researchers' Days took place on 2 and 3rd December in Luxembourg (Rockhal Esch/Belval)



Spotlight on Young Researchers: Towards predicting ageing-related diseases

A rapid increase in both life expectancy and global population size has led to a rise in the prevalence of chronic ageing-associated diseases. Brain and heart age-associated diseases including hypertension, stroke, heart failure, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are leading causes of mortality and disability worldwide. Researchers are working on much-needed ways to predict these diseases.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: The role a gene plays in neurodegeneration and cancer

Neurogenerative diseases and cancer affect millions of people worldwide, especially people over 60. While advances in diagnosis and treatment have been made, there are still many open questions on the path to better treatment and earlier diagnosis. Translational neuroscientist Pauline Mencke studies a gene that is involved both in Parkinson’s disease and the brain cancer Glioblastoma multiforme.

Wastewater reveals clues about microorganisms, holds promise for future microbiome engineering

Studying the dynamics of microbial communities over several microbial generations, a team of Luxembourg researchers have gained insight into the microorganisms that live in biological wastewater treatment plants. This knowledge can ultimately help predict and control microbial communities – including the human microbiome.

NCER-PD: Excellent results rewarded with a second funding period

Over the past two decades, Luxembourg has developed into an internationally recognised hub for science. An important driving force behind this development is Parkinson’s research. The Grand Duchy is now one of the leading locations for this field of research. This can be attributed in part to the FNR-sponsored project NCER-PD, the National Centre for Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease. NCER-PD is so successful that, in 2019, the FNR gave the green light and six million euros for the second funding period.

What microbes really do in our guts

Countless microorganisms live peacefully in our body, but they also can be involved in many diseases. To find out exactly what role they play, a biologist has given himself a Herculean task: survey all the biomolecules produced by the microbes residing in our guts.

Genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease: Stem cell research offers new insights

Together with an international team of scientists, Luxembourg researchers led by FNR PEARL Chair Prof. Rejko Krüger, have clarified the cause for certain genetic forms of Parkinson’s disease. The seven-year interdisciplinary research effort also identified potential pharmacological treatments.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa

Growing up in Botswana and Zimbabwe, Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa did not see science as a career option. Fast forward a few years: Nathasia is studying Parkinson’s disease as part of her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg, and has co-founded a STEM initiative that was featured in Forbes.

Luxembourg Parkinson’s Study: 1600 participants recruited!

In 2015, the ambitious National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease (NCER-PD) was launched with the support of the FNR. This research programme brings together research institutions focusing on Parkinson’s disease in Luxembourg, with the aim of answering urgent questions on Parkinson’s disease. As of the end of 2019, the Luxembourg Parkinson’s Study has reached its ambitious goal: 800 patients and 800 controls have been recruited in Luxembourg and the Greater Region.

Toward a better understanding and diagnosis of neurodegeneration and brain tumours

Renowned neuropathologist Prof Dr Michel Mittelbronn came to Luxembourg in the framework of the FNR’s PEARL programme in early 2017. At the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS), the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the University of Luxembourg’s LCSB, Prof Mittelbronn and his team is working to increase and improve neuropathological research and diagnosis in Luxembourg.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies for analytics purposes. Find out more in our Privacy Statement