Medicine: The Parkinson's Puzzle

Is Parkinson's disease dying out? The "shaking palsy" that Dr. James Parkinson, a London physician, distinguished in 1817 was relatively uncommon until the 1930s, when this ancient nervous disorder inexplicably erupted to nearly epidemic proportions. Now new cases of Parkinsonism are appearing less frequently, prompting a debate as to whether this scourge of the mid-20th century may in fact be disappearing.

Parkinson's disease has always been wreathed in mystery. For centuries nothing was known of its causes, though it was noted that in many cases it followed an attack of encephalitis, inflammation of...

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