This device tracks Parkinson’s disease by watching you walk around the house

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For the more than 10 million people with Parkinson’s disease, monitoring the progression of the disease is essential for doctors to know if patients are responding well to medication, if symptoms are getting worse and what is impact of the disease on daily life.

The problem for many patients, however, is that they cannot always get to the hospital or doctor easily, either because they live too far away or because their illness prevents them from getting around easily. . That’s why a team of MIT researchers has designed a small device about the size of a Wi-Fi router that can wirelessly monitor patients in their homes.

In a previous study, the device demonstrated the ability to detect Parkinson’s by simply “listening” to sleeping people, using an AI the researchers trained to analyze a person’s breathing patterns while they doze. .

This bot detects Parkinson’s disease by listening to you breathe

In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the same team discovered that the device is also able to wirelessly monitor a patient’s movements and walking speed as they move around their room. This information can then be sent to doctors and neurologists to help them better understand the severity and progression of the disease.

“By being able to have a device in the home that can monitor a patient and notify the doctor remotely of the patient’s disease progression and drug response so that they can attend to the patient even if the patient cannot come to the clinic – now they have real, reliable information – which goes a long way to improving equity and access,” said Dina Katabi, an MIT computer science researcher and lead author of the study, in a press release. .

The device works by sending radio signals into a room the patient is in and then bouncing back to them, allowing them to “see” their surroundings. It’s not unlike the way bats use echolocation to sense their surroundings. The AI ​​in the device is able to identify the patient and monitor them throughout their day in their room.

This may be the key to diagnosing Parkinson’s disease at an early stage

In two studies with 50 participants, the device was able to analyze more than 200,000 walking speed measurements. This wealth of data allows doctors to track the progression and severity of Parkinson’s disease better than they would during occasional in-person visits.

“Monitoring the patient continuously as they move around the room allowed us to get very good measurements of their walking speed,” said Guo Zhang, a wireless networking researcher at MIT and co-lead author of the study, in a press release. “And with so much data, we were able to do an aggregation that allowed us to see very small differences.”

A device like this can go a long way in treating — and potentially slowing — the progression and severity of Parkinson’s disease. Although it is not a cure, it can actually benefit the lives of millions of people with the neurodegenerative disease, providing them with a better quality of care and life, all from the comfort of their homes. bedroom.

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