Digital Technology May Help Treat Walking Problems in Parkinson’s

Diana Campelo Delgado avatar

by Diana Campelo Delgado |

Share this article:

Share article via email
measuring walking in Parkinson's

A state-of-the-art digital technology that targets different brain areas during specific physiotherapy strategies used to measure walking and brain activity changes in Parkinson’s disease patients, is being developed by researchers at Northumbria University, England.

Understanding these changes may help target and treat walking problems in these patients.

Difficulties with movement, including walking, are very common to patients with Parkinson’s, and the incidence of recurrent falls is very high. There is no medication available that is able to eliminate these problems.

To improve mobility and quality of life in Parkinson’s patients there is a need to employ physiotherapy strategies. However, more research is needed to understand how these treatments work and what real benefits they can provide to patients.

“These interventions haven’t changed in decades and we don’t know why walking improves with these physiotherapy techniques. This has led to not all patients benefiting and only short-term walking improvements being seen,” Sam Stuart, PhD, said in a press release. Stuart is senior researcher in the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University.

Stuart and his team have received a Clinical Research Award from the Parkinson’s Foundation in the form of a two-year, $200,000 research grant. The grant will allow them to use state-of-the-art digital technology to measure walking and brain activity changes in patients with Parkinson’s disease, while being exposed to several internal and external stimuli.

“It is unclear if these [physiotherapy] strategies are effective with the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and we don’t know which type of strategy is most effective at different stages of the disease or with more severe walking impairment,” Stuart said.

“By activating specific brain regions, and analyzing brain activity in response to these physiotherapy strategies using the latest digital technology, our aim in this study is to see a change in patients’ response at different stages of Parkinson’s disease,” he said.

Stuart believes that understanding the reasons why people benefit from different physiotherapy strategies, and which patients benefit the most from specific interventions, could help provide a more timely and efficient treatment for Parkinson’s patients.

“The physiotherapy strategies we currently provide for patients with Parkinson’s don’t work for everybody,” Stuart said. “We need more targeted and personalized interventions if we’re going to see a real improvement in walking ability among patients. By developing a better understanding of why these strategies work, we can also develop more effective interventions.”