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Our bodies carry out many autonomous or involuntary actions, such as breathing, blinking, and pumping blood. Some neurodegenerative diseases interfere with the body's ability to automate these internal processes. One of these disorders is multiple system atrophy or MSA, a rare and devastating condition that shares many similarities with Parkinson's. MSA affects the ability of nerve cells to communicate with the rest of the body and the voluntary nervous system functions that control movement. The condition only affects approximately four out of every 100,000 people.

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1. Overview

Multiple system atrophy was first introduced to medical literature in 1969. The less-well-known cousin of Parkinson's disease, the two share many symptoms, including a buildup of the same protein in the brain. For those with MSA, the part of the brain that controls the muscles and autonomic processes starts to shut down. This affects involuntary bodily functions such as bladder and muscle control, blood pressure, and breathing, as well as voluntary muscles.

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