Can Gaucher Disease Help You See Colors?

There is a link between Gaucher disease and Parkinson’s disease… but it may not be what you think.

A study at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, has revealed that patients who live with both Parkinson’s and Gaucher may actually experience a slight benefit from the combination.

To be clear: there is not much good that comes from having both diseases.

People with Gaucher disease who go on to develop Parkinson’s disease tend to experience early-onset Parkinson’s and also have more serious cognitive impairment than people living with only Parkinson’s disease. BUT, within that awful sphere of misery there also exists this:

The presence of Gaucher disease in combination with Parkinson’s can help preserve a person’s color discrimination (that is, their ability to differentiate between hues).

The study, which was led by Deborah Elstein, PhD., followed six different groups of people as they completed the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 hue test (or FMHT). The groups were broken down as follows:

  1. Healthy controls
  2. People who are carriers of a mutation to the GBA (glucocerebrosidase) gene
    • NOTE: Mutations to the GBA gene are often associated with Gaucher disease
  3. People living with Parkinson’s disease only
  4. People living with Gaucher disease only
  5. People living with both diseases
  6. People living with Parkinson’s disease who are also carriers of the GBA mutation

Interestingly enough, the best score actually came from people living with Gaucher disease only, besting the healthy control group by nearly 50 points.

Scores on the FMHT measure the number of errors a participant makes on the test, so the lower the score the better they did. The results for each group follow:

  1. Healthy controls – 177.70
  2. Carriers of GBA mutation – 177.20
  3. People living with Parkinson’s disease – 289.70
  4. People living with Gaucher disease – 129.70
  5. People living with both diseases – 237.90
  6. People living with Parkinson’s who are also carriers of the GBA mutation – 220.20

With that wealth of knowledge, there’s one thought I keep coming back to:

Is it possible that people living with Gaucher disease can actually differentiate color better than the rest of us?


James Ernest Cassady

James Ernest Cassady

Though "Ernest" is a family name that's been passed down for generations, James truly earned his middle moniker when, at the age of five, he told his mother that "laughing is stupid unless EVERYBODY is happy." Since then, the serious little bastard has been on a mission to highlight the world's shortcomings (and hopefully correct them). In addition to his volunteer work at hospitals and animal shelters, James also enjoys documentaries and the work of William Faulkner. He is originally from Oklahoma.

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