Scientists have developed a system for Parkinson’s sufferers to counter two of the most common and distressing symptoms of the degenerative disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. Many patients are afflicted by freezing of gait (FOG) where suddenly, in mid-stride, the muscles freeze, and they are left unable to move forward, or they simply fall over.
Previous research shows that giving visual clues, such as projecting lines ahead on the floor “unfreezes” the muscles, but current equipment has to be worn.
However, Brunel University London’s Dr. Konstantinos Banitsas and Ph.D. candidate Amin Amini Maghsoud Bigy have turned Microsoft’s Kinect computer games controller into a system that can be installed into a patient’s own home. Linked to a ceiling-mounted laser, the Kinect can not only project prompt lines when the software detects a FOG incident but, if a patient falls, the system both detects it and automatically triggers a video conferencing call.
Said Dr. Banitsas: “All the other systems require a patient to wear sensors and power packs, where our solution is unobtrusive and covers a whole room. By mounting the laser guide marker on the ceiling, it can provide the visual clues in any direction. And it is only activated when a FOG incident occurs, instead of having to be worn constantly.
“The system has already passed proof of concept stage and we will shortly begin patient trials.”