A miniature radar system that tracks a person as they walk around their home could be used to measure the effectiveness of treatments for Parkinson’s.
The disease, which affects about 145,000 people in the UK, is linked to the death of nerve cells in the brain that help to control movement.
With no quick diagnostic test available at present, doctors must usually review a patient’s medical history and look for symptoms that often develop only very slowly, such as muscle stiffness and tremors.
The device, about the size of a wi-fi router, is designed to give a more precise picture of how the severity of symptoms changes, both over the long term and hourly.
It sits in one room and emits radio signals that bounce off the body of a patient. Using artificial intelligence it is able to recognise and lock on to one individual. Over several months it will notice if their walking speed is becoming slower in a way that indicates that the disease is becoming worse. During a single day it can also recognise periods where a person’s strides quicken, which means that it could be used to monitor the effectiveness of new and existing drugs, even where the effects last a relatively short time.
“This really gives us the possibility to objectively measure how your mobility responds to your medication. Previously, this was nearly impossible to do because this medication effect could only be measured by having the patient keep a journal,” said Yingcheng Liu, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is part of the team behind the device.
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Source: The Times, 22 September 2022