Trial Will Test Music-based Therapy for Improving Walking Ability

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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walking ability, music-based digital therapy

MedRhythms is launching a clinical trial of its experimental digital therapy MR-005, which seeks to use sensors, music, and software to improve walking ability in people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.

The technology, which received a patent in the United States last year, works by matching body movements to rhythm to improve gait, or a person’s manner of walking.

“People with Parkinson’s need more options for interventions to improve walking ability,” Terry Ellis, PhD, a behavioral neuroscientist with Boston University and the study’s leading investigator, said in a press release.

“Music, particularly Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation, is a promising intervention for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, as has been shown through decades of evidence in its ability to improve gait and reduce falls in this population,” said Ellis, director of the university’s neurologic physical therapy residency program.

“MR-005 provides an opportunity for this intervention to be delivered at scale, and we are excited to be a part of its development,” she added.

The multi-site study will evaluate the clinical efficacy of MR-005 when used remotely in participants’ home settings.

This trial follows previous studies testing the same rhythmic auditory stimulation technology as a therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) and stroke recovery.

The patented tech is the basis for a process called entrainment, which seeks to improve users’ walking speed and cadence by syncing their movements to regular beats.

Past research has found evidence that some of the brain pathways involved in movement control overlap those involved in processing auditory signals, such as listening to music. Some of this research has even suggested that entrainment could serve as a way to strengthen the brain’s ability to adapt to new information by forming new neural connections, an ability called neuroplasticity.

To carry out this synchronization, the technology platform screens and alters songs to make them more useful in a therapeutic setting.

MedRhythms has formed a scientific advisory board to assist the company through the development and testing of MR-005. These boards typically are composed of subject matter experts, who provide scientific and strategic guidance for a research program.

Among the members of this Aging Scientific Advisory Board are Joe Verghese, MD, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, and Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, in Massachusetts.

The company formed similar scientific advisory boards to provide direction in its MS program and most recently, in its aging program.

“This digital therapeutic has the potential to make a significant impact in the aging population,” Verghese said, noting that he expects “rigorous testing” of MR-005.