Robin Williams' death highlights Parkinson's-depression link

Thu Aug 14, 2014 8:15pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy and Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Robin Williams was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's disease along with severe depression at the time of his apparent suicide, his widow said on Thursday, drawing public attention to the correlation between the diseases.

Although the gifted comedian had spoken before about his depression, Parkinson's experts have noted how the incurable and debilitating nervous system disorder that causes tremors and slowness of movement also affects people emotionally.

"The neurochemicals that are impacted by Parkinson's disease and the pathways that control motor functions are also integrally involved in the control of mood," said Dr. Irene Richard, a neurology professor at the University of Rochester in New York.

More than half of those who suffer from Parkinson's also experience clinical depression, according to the National Parkinson Foundation, which advises all Parkinson's patients to be screened for depression.

The 63-year-old Oscar-winning comedic virtuoso, whose madcap style and dramatic versatility made him one of film and television's top stars, was found hanged at his home in Northern California on Monday.

Williams' widow, Susan Schneider, said the comedian "was not yet ready to share publicly" his struggles with Parkinson's, which affects about 1 million people in the United States.

'PART OF THE DISEASE'   Continued...

A woman takes a picture of a mural depicting late actor Robin Williams in Belgrade, August 13, 2014.    REUTERS/Marko Djurica