M3F Foundation partners with FAU Jupiter to support those with neurodegenerative disorders

The Mind, Music and Movement Foundation for Neurological Disorders (M3F) is offering classes on the Jupiter campus Thursdays and Saturdays for those with neurodegenerative disorders and their support systems.


M3F Foundation Logo, courtesy of M3F.

Mary Rasura, Staff Writer

The Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, located on the university’s Jupiter campus, is now hosting classes by the Mind, Music and Movement Foundation for Neurological Disorders (M3F) that aim to support those with neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Both diseases have an especially high prevalence in Florida due to the state’s aging population. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that nearly 750,000 people in Florida will have the disease by 2025, and Florida is also ranked first in the percentage of the state population with Parkinson’s. 

M3F holds classes at the Jupiter campus on Thursdays and Saturdays and gears toward movement, such as dance, yoga, and boxing. M3F also offers nutrition counseling and other support services.  

Beth and Steve Elgort pictured at an event on March 27 where M3F and FAU announced their partnership. Courtesy of M3F.

Beth Elgort, a social worker by trade, was living in Manhattan when a neurologist diagnosed her husband Steve with Parkinson’s 12 years ago. They eventually moved to Florida, where she started the foundation after she found a lack of resources for her husband in the area.

“When we came down here, I really had difficulty trying to find the appropriate resources and the resources were scattered, and that’s very challenging for someone with a movement disorder to go from one therapy to another and I just was challenged by this and I was determined to try to make something happen,” she said. 

Steve Elgort noticed that his symptoms eased when he was active.

“I still stagger a little bit. I still drag my feet a little bit,” he said. “But then I didn’t realize but I play a lot of ball and when I play ball I play like a young kid. And I didn’t put the two things together, but my ball playing and my Parkinson’s don’t really work together. My ball playing supersedes the Parkinson’s.” 

Dr. Julie Pilitsis, dean of the FAU College of Medicine and a neurosurgeon with expertise in treating Parkinson’s disease, said in a May 25 interview with the UP that there is research supporting movement being beneficial in a neurodegenerative condition.

“There’s a lot of evidence that says the best thing you can do for Parkinson’s is keep moving,” Dr. Pilitsis said. 

Beth Elgort emphasized the value of movement in treating these conditions. 

“It’s a movement disorder. So you know it’s use it or you lose it. You have to be active, and you have to really participate because everything slows down with some of these diseases,” she said.

Patricia Izbicki has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Iowa State University and is a Medical Science Liaison at Octave, a California-based company working to enhance the treatment of those with Multiple Sclerosis. 

Along with Dr. Pilitsis and Beth Elgort, she is planning a research study on how singing can improve the quality of life in those with neurodegenerative disorders. Their plan is to use participants from the Voices of Parkinson’s Chorus, which is available to those taking classes with the M3F Foundation. A participant does not need to have Parkinson’s to join the chorus, and the study plans on studying individuals with other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. 

“There are a lot of studies within the literature that show improvements in quality of life. Not only after choir but after boxing, yoga, all of that stuff,” she said. “So there’s a lot of preliminary studies that do that.” 

Izbicki noted the study’s relatively large sample size, which she says can be difficult to obtain in their field. They plan to enroll 400 participants in the study and to follow participants for approximately six months to track how long improvements may last. 

Beth Elgort shared her goal of reducing the perceived stigma of these conditions by informing the greater community about symptoms patients can face. 

“We hope to be a force to be reckoned with bringing awareness, unity about these diseases,” she said. “Take the stigma out of it, so that someone like my husband doesn’t have to go into a room and feel embarrassed because he’s in a wheelchair, or his hands are shaking, or his voice. The more we educate the community about these diseases, the more awareness comes to the forefront.”

For more information on M3F, visit their website or email [email protected].

Mary Rasura is a Staff Writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this article or others, email her at [email protected] or DM @maryrasura.