Michael J. Fox's return to network television opens door to conversation about
NEW YORK, Sept. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new online survey of more
than 2,000 U.S. adults, sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for
Parkinson's Research (MJFF), reveals that nearly one in five Americans (17
percent) care enough about their brain health that they think about it on a
day-to-day basis-- but also that myths and misperceptions abound, including a
considerable underestimation of the incidence of brain ailments.
Three out of five, or 60 percent, of Americans will develop a brain disease in
their lifetimes. In contrast, the survey shows that on average, Americans
estimate that only 36 percent of the U.S. population will be at risk of
developing a brain disease in their lifetime.
MJFF commissioned the survey, which was fielded by Harris Interactive, as
Michael J. Fox returns to network television full-time on September 26, more
than 22 years after his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease -- opening the door for
a revived conversation about brain health. The Foundation also sought to measure
how invested and involved Americans feel in the search for disease cures, which
plays an important role in the process and outcomes of medical research.
The vast majority of Americans (95 percent) agree that with new technologies,
medical breakthroughs are possible. Yet only 31 percent of Americans say that
they can personally help to find cures for chronic illnesses -- a perception
MJFF is working to change.
"There are many ways patients and their loved ones can help accelerate the
search for cures, such as participating in clinical (human) research studies:
providing a one-off blood or saliva sample for genetic testing, or even just
completing a survey," said Deborah W. Brooks, co-founder and executive vice
chairman of The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
The MJFF survey also revealed that younger Americans feel more empowered to get
involved than their older counterparts. Forty-one percent of Americans aged 18
to 34 believe that they can personally help find cures, compared to only 24
percent of those over the age of 55.
Other common misperceptions about the brain:
-- "People only use 10 percent of their brains on a daily basis" -- Almost
two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans believe this statement is true.
However, neurologists at the Mayo Clinic confirm that almost all of our
brains are active at all times.
-- "Mental skills decline with age" -- According to psychologists, certain
mental skills actually improve with age, such as one's vocabulary and
social wisdom. Still, almost three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans
believe this myth to be true.
-- "Men and women are at equal risk of developing brain disease" -- This
statement rings true to 71 percent of Americans. In fact, risk varies
across diseases. For example, men have a somewhat higher risk of
developing Parkinson's disease, while women have a higher risk of
developing multiple sclerosis.
Finally, only half of Americans (50 percent) think that loss of smell can be a
precursor to all brain diseases. In fact, loss of smell is associated with all
major brain diseases, and more than 95 percent of newly diagnosed Parkinson's
disease patients have lost some ability to smell. (The Michael J. Fox
Foundation is currently leading a major research study recruiting people over
age 60 without Parkinson's who have lost some ability to smell.)
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive
on behalf of The Michael J. Fox Foundation from July 24-26, 2013, among 2,013
adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability
sample, and, therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be
calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables,
please contact Sarah Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Our challenges don't define us. Our actions do.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation exists for one reason: to find the cure for
Parkinson's disease in our lifetime. Parkinson's is the second most common brain
disease, estimated to affect one in 100 individuals over age 60. Founded by
Michael J. Fox in 2000, the Foundation has quickly grown to become the largest
nonprofit funder of Parkinson's research globally, and was called "the most
credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world" by The New York Times. As
Michael returns to network television full-time after more than two decades
living with Parkinson's disease, the Foundation has launched think/able, a
project celebrating the power of optimism and determination to overcome
challenges and achieve our biggest goals. Now through the end of October, visit
the Foundation's Web site to write Michael a message about how you think/able to
reach for your dreams.
 Stanley B. Prusiner and George P. Shultz, "Brain Research and the Challenge
of Aging," The Wall Street Journal, July 5, 2011.
 Robynne Boyd, "Do People Only Use 10 Percent Of Their Brains?," Scientific
American, February 7, 2008
 Laura Helmuth, "Top Ten Myths About the Brain," Smithsonian Magazine, May
 National Institutes of Health, "What Is Parkinson's Disease?"
 Mayo Clinic, "Multiple sclerosis: Risk factors," December 15, 2012
 Huttenbrink KB, Hummel T, Berg D, Gasser T, Hahner A. "Olfactory
Dysfunction: Common in Later Life and Early Warning of Neurodegenerative
Disease," Clinic of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of
Cologne, PubMed (U.S. National Library of Medicine), January 7, 2013
SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation