IMPROV & PD: Improvisation techniques and humor as strategies for coping with every day challenges of Parkinson's disease

Project: Research project

Project Details


This is a prospective, randomized, controlled, delayed-start designed study of scenic improvisation theater for patients with PD. The aim of the study is to provide an assessment of the feasibility and the potential benefits of a novel program for PD, in order to more clearly define the role of a potentially enjoyable expressive therapy in this population. Specifically, we aim to demonstrate that a novel improvisation program will be well-attended, enjoyable, and can improve communication skills, stigma, anxiety, and quality of life among patients with PD of varying ages and disease severity. The intervention will be compared against a delayed-start control group. 60 minute improvisation theater sessions led by Second City faculty will take place once a week for 12 weeks. Attendance will be taken at all sessions. 24 PD patients will be randomized into immediate start and delayed start groups in a 1:1 ratio controlling for age and Hoehn and Yahr (H&Y) stage. Participants will be recruited from the Northwestern Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center which is a National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) Center of Excellence. All participants will have idiopathic PD determined by their treating neurologist using UK brain bank criteria [Hughes, 1992]. All participants must be on a stable PD medication regimen during the course of the study. There is no age or disease severity exclusion. The immediate start group will begin sessions on day 1 of the study, while the delayed start group will begin at day 45. Within 1 week prior to the start of the trial, both groups will be assessed with the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale parts II and III (UPDRS) in the “ON” state, Parkinson Disease 39-item Questionnaire (PDQ-39), as well as neurology quality of life (neuro-QOL) item bank v 1.0 (short forms) assessment tools of communication, anxiety, stigma, depression, and positive affect and well-being. Neuro-QOL tools are a newly developed and validated strategy for assessment across all neurologic diseases [Cella, Neurology, 2012]. Assessments will be repeated at day 45 and again at day 90. Caregivers will be allowed to participate in all sessions, but will not count as part of the 24 participants, and will not complete the same assessments. Instead, they will complete a caregiver burden assessment survey.
Effective start/end date7/1/159/30/16


  • National Parkinson Foundation, Inc. (Agmt Signed 6/30/15)


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