A new wearable electronic device can reduce mobility issues for people living with Parkinson’s diseases, a team of researchers from a university in Ireland has found.
Engineers and scientists at NUI Galway working alongside clinical professionals from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) have carried out a clinical study which showed promise for the new device.
The research found that ‘fixed’ rhythmic sensory electrical stimulation (sES) designed to prevent movement abnormality, significantly reduced the time taken for a person with Parkinson’s disease to complete a walking task and the number of ‘freezing of gait’ episodes which occurred.
The study involved a group of people with Parkinson’s testing how effective the sES electronic device was in helping them to manage this debilitating motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease. The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Healthcare Engineering.
Professor Gearóid Ó Laighin and the research team from the Human Movement Laboratory in CÚRAM at NUI Galway have a programme of research developing a suite of unobtrusive, wearable electronic devices to help manage this debilitating motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease.
As part of this work, the project team have developed a novel wearable electronic device worn around the waist, called ‘cueStim’, designed to prevent or relieve freezing of gait, commonly described by people with Parkinson’s, as a feeling as if their feet are stuck or glued to the floor preventing them from moving forward.
The condition gained prominence recently when Billy Connolly spoke of his fear of being unable to move freely on stage in his documentary Made in Scotland.
The comedian said: “I didn’t know how standing there would feel…I discovered that I got kinda rooted to the spot and became afraid to move. Instead of going away to the front of the stage and prowling along the front the way I used to do I stood where I was.”
NUI Galway’s co-investigator, Dr Leo Quinlan, from Physiology in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “These results are very encouraging as they show that cueStim reduced Freezing of Gait episodes and the time to complete a walking task in an independent clinical assessment with a pilot home-based study carried out by NHSGGC.”
Professor Gearóid Ó Laighin said: “We are now seeking additional clinical partners to work with NUI Galway in carrying out a comprehensive long-term clinical evaluation of cueStim in enhancing the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s disease through a funded programme of research.”
Image: A wearable electronic device, called ‘cueStim’, designed by researchers at NUI Galway to prevent or relieve Freezing of Gait, a movement abnormality associated with Parkinson’s disease. Photo credit: NUI Galway