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Piece of Mind - Parkinsons Disease Genetics Practice

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This work-in-progress is the starting point of a larger project to bring together neuroscientists, performing artists and individuals living with neurodegenerative conditions to co-create a performance representing neuroscientific findings and subjective experience. This practice video is from our first choreographed piece, in which we experimented with representing genetic mutations associated with Parkinson's disease through music and movement. Specifically, our musician (Anusha Kamesh) created a short melody, representing a DNA sequence, with continuous triplets played overtop representing the nucleotide triplets that code for amino acids — the building blocks of the proteins. The music loops 4 times: the first time plays through the original piece, and each subsequent time a new mutation is heard within the main melody and within the triplets. The first two mutations are substitutions (or "point mutations"), meaning that the nucleotide in the DNA — and the note in our melody — is switched for another (these represent LRRK2 and VPS35 in Parkinson's disease research). The third mutation you hear is a triplication, representing part of a DNA sequence being multiplied (this can happen to SNCA, a gene which codes for the alpha-synuclein protein). The dancers (Kristin Piljay, Naila Kuhlmann, Laurie "Quantalock" Archambault, and Claire Honda) follow the same sequence of movements, paired to each note, throughout the whole piece. Each time the music loops, 1 or 2 dancers highlight the mutated note by changing their movement compared to the others. The juggler (Kevin Chen) likewise illustrates the mutation using coloured rings. We had planned to present and record a polished version of this piece for Parkinson's Awareness Month in April; unfortunately, COVID-19 shut down our event and has paused our progress. The final piece will have 2 dancers representing each mutation, dancing across from one another in the circle — this is to evoke a cell with the juggler representing the nucleus in the middle. It will be one of three original pieces of music and performance representing Parkinson's disease from its genetics, to the effects on a cellular and physiological level, to the subjective experience of affected individuals.

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