A new app for devices such as Google Glass promises to improve the gait of people with Parkinson’s disease and decrease their risk of falling.
Researchers at the University of Twente’s MIRA Institute in the Netherlands have received a €94,000 grant from funding body NutsOhra fund to develop the app.
The gait of Parkinson’s patients is often disturbed: sometimes this presents itself as a shuffling movement with the patient taking small steps, or it may result in the patient constantly looking for additional support. Gait disturbance also increases the chance of a fall, despite progress made in terms of medication.
Researchers have established that the gait of patients improves when they regularly see or hear a pattern with examples including stripes on the floor, or the regular ticking of a metronome.
The researchers, working under the leadership of Prof Richard van Wezel, who is professor of Neurophysiology at the UT, are now looking at exploring the possibility of using the intelligent glasses, such as Google Glass, that are now coming on to the consumer market.
Intelligent glasses would be able to provide patients with the regular visual or audible patterns required. These patterns may take the form of moving stripes or shapes which the patient sees through the glasses, flashing shapes, or music with varying tempos.
The latest intelligent glasses already have inbuilt cameras and accelerometers and by using these it will be possible to determine which approach works best for each individual patient.
The MIRA Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine is working on the project together with the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Nijmegen, the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital, and the VUmc University Medical Centre in Amsterdam.