New Vibrating Prototype Could Help Parkinson's Patients

 

The VibeForward is a new, noninvasive device that could one day help people with Parkinson's disease walk with greater ease. Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. live with the disease, and 60% of those patients suffer from freezing of gait, a symptom that makes it feel like your feet are stuck to the ground.

Research suggests that vibration therapy, when applied to the feet, can reduce freezing of gait. The VibeForward straps to one's feet or ankles, and pairs to an app that controls the vibrating motors designed to keep one out of the metaphorical muck. The early concept design that will be used for clinical trials resembles the ankle monitor you receive after making a poor life decision.

This small, rechargeable device is being designed for everyday use by Resonate Forward, a new startup spun out of the University of Delaware. The VibeForward team just received a $440,000 grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research to test the prototype.

The foundation recently launched a new initiative to fund nonpharmacological ways to treat problems with gait and balance in an effort to improve the daily lives of patients. The VibeForward was one of only eight projects from around the world to receive funding from the foundation.

The prototype pairs to the smartphone app, which controls the motor settings. The app also collects data about the patient's gait from various sensors. Next, the researchers hope to make the VibeForward smarter, with long-term plans to incorporate artificial intelligence that will learn and adapt to each patient's needs.

In the immediate future, the prototypes will be used in a clinical trial to gain more insight into vibration therapy's effectiveness, and determine the vibration duration and intensity required to make the VibeForward an effective end to these freezing of gait episodes.

Image Credit: IEN

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