According to lead researcher Professor Yoram Baram of the Faculty of Computer Science, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the device combines a wearable, cell phone-sized audio component – which measures body movement, processes it and sends feedback to the user through earphones – with a visual feedback apparatus he developed for Parkinson’s patients ten years ago.
The visual component presents users with a virtual, tiled-floor image displayed on one eye via a tiny piece that clips onto glasses worn by the user. This allows the user to distinguish between the virtual floor and real obstacles, making it possible to navigate even rough terrain or stairs.
Baram and Prof. Ariel Miller of the Faculty of Medicine and the Multiple Sclerosis and Brain Research Center at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa examined the effects of the patented device on the gait quality of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients.
The researchers found that auditory feedback significantly improved the gait of both MS and Parkinson’s patients (though the improvement was less pronounced in Parkinson’s patients). With regard to walking speed, patients showed an average improvement of 12.84% while wearing the device. There were also positive residual short-term therapeutic effects (18.75% improvement) after use. Average improvement in stride was 8.30% while wearing the device and 9.93% residually.
“Healthy people have other tools, such as sensory feedback from muscles nerves, which report on muscle control, telling them whether or not they are using their muscles correctly,” says Baram. “This feedback is damaged in Parkinson and MS patients and the elderly, but auditory feedback can be used to help them walk at a fixed pace.”
MEDICA.de; Source: American Technion Society