Mitochondrial Capacity and Muscle Endurance in Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease

Main Article Content

Nivita D. Sharma Megan E. Ware Kevin K. McCully


Introduction: Parkinson's disease (PD) is associated with loss of motor control and difficulty exercising. This study measured skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity and endurance in individuals with and without PD using novel non-invasive methods. We hypothesized that individuals with PD will have decreased mitochondrial capacity, reduced oxygen recovery, and decreased endurance compared to controls. Methods: Eight participants with PD and nine healthy controls were tested. Mitochondrial capacity was measured as the rate of recovery of muscle metabolism after electrical stimulation using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and repeated short arterial occlusions.  Oxygen recovery was measured as the half time of recovery of oxygen levels after 5 minutes of ischemia. Muscle endurance was determined from changes in twitch contraction acceleration during electrical stimulation at 2, 4, and 6 Hz. Results: Mitochondrial capacity was lower in individuals with PD compared to controls (1.5±0.1min-1 vs. 1.7±0.1min-1, p=0.02).  Individuals with PD had slower oxygen recovery after ischemia compared to controls (8.9±2.3s vs. 5.4±0.8s, p=0.01). Endurance was not different between groups at 6 Hz (PD vs controls: 58±23% vs. 69±16%, p=0.34). The effect sizes for mitochondrial capacity and oxygen recovery were large (Cohen's d >0.8). The Cohen's d for endurance was 1.11. Conclusion: Individuals with PD had slight impairments in mitochondrial capacity and blood flow but did not have reduced muscle endurance. While our study suggests that muscle metabolic dysfunction may play a minor role in exercise intolerance in people with PD, it demonstrates the use of noninvasive technologies to evaluate muscle function in people with neurological disorders.

Keywords: Neurological disorders, skeletal muscle, near infrared spectroscopy, oxidative metabolism

Article Details

How to Cite
SHARMA, Nivita D.; WARE, Megan E.; MCCULLY, Kevin K.. Mitochondrial Capacity and Muscle Endurance in Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 1, jan. 2021. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 14 june 2024. doi:
Research Articles


1. Weintraub D, Comella CL, Horn S. Parkinson's disease--Part 1: Pathophysiology, symptoms, burden, diagnosis, and assessment. Am J Manag Care. Mar 2008;14(2 Suppl):S40-8.
2. Ziv I, Avraham M, Michaelov Y, et al. Enhanced fatigue during motor performance in patients with Parkinson's disease. Neurology. Dec 1998;51(6):1583-6. doi:10.1212/wnl.51.6.1583
3. Bouca-Machado R, Rosario A, Caldeira D, et al. Physical Activity, Exercise, and Physiotherapy in Parkinson's Disease: Defining the Concepts. Mov Disord Clin Pract. Jan 2020;7(1):7-15. doi:10.1002/mdc3.12849
4. Lin MT, Beal MF. Mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in neurodegenerative diseases. Nature. Oct 19 2006;443(7113):787-95. doi:10.1038/nature05292
5. Willingham TB, McCully KK. In Vivo Assessment of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Clinical Populations using Near-Infrared Spectroscopy. Review. Frontiers in Physiology. 2017;8(689):1-11. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00689
6. Willingham TB, Southern WM, McCully KK. Measuring reactive hyperemia in the lower limb using near-infrared spectroscopy. J Biomed Opt. Sep 2016;21(9):091302. doi:10.1117/1.JBO.21.9.091302
7. Willingham TB, McCully KK. Assessment of Muscle Fatigue during Twitch Electrical Stimulation using Accelerometer-based Mechanomyography. Advances in Skeletal Muscle Function Assessment. August, 2017 2017;1(2):14-20.
8. Mahoney FI, Barthel DW. Functional Evaluation: The Barthel Index. Md State Med J. Feb 1965;14:61-5.
9. Anderson JJ, Bravi D, Ferrari R, et al. No evidence for altered muscle mitochondrial function in Parkinson's disease. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. May 1993;56(5):477-80. doi:10.1136/jnnp.56.5.477
10. Crowley EK, Nolan YM, Sullivan AM. Exercise as a therapeutic intervention for motor and non-motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease: Evidence from rodent models. Prog Neurobiol. Jan 2019;172:2-22. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2018.11.003
11. Tang L, Fang Y, Yin J. The effects of exercise interventions on Parkinson's disease: A Bayesian network meta-analysis. J Clin Neurosci. Dec 2019;70:47-54. doi:10.1016/j.jocn.2019.08.092
12. Willingham TB, Backus D, McCully KK. Muscle Dysfunction and Walking Impairment in Women with Multiple Sclerosis. International Journal of MS Care. 2019/11/01 2019;21(6):249-256. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2018-020
13. McCully K, Halber C, Posner J. Exercise-induced changes in oxygen saturation in the calf muscles of elderly subjects with peripheral vascular disease. Journal of Gerontology. 1994;49(3):B128-B134.