Smart insole checks fall risk for people with Parkinson’s


Researchers have developed a toe tapping test for patients with Parkinson’s disease that collects information from smart shoe soles.

Test results can help determine a patient’s risk of falling while providing information such as symptom progression and treatment suggestions.

Out of 200 people, three live with Parkinson’s disease. The progressive disorder affects the central nervous system and currently has no cure. Parkinson’s disease can cause mobility problems, increasing patients’ risk of falls.

Researchers have created a toe tapping test using smart shoe soles that can safely assess fall risk in patients with Parkinson’s disease. (Credit: Texas A&M)

“We developed a lightweight, easy-to-install, self-powered insole that you can place in any type of shoe, and a correlation test that can accurately determine the risk of falling,” says Ya Wang. , Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. department of Texas A&M University.

“For people living in rural or underdeveloped areas or for people who don’t feel comfortable taking a walk test, our technology presents a solution to monitor the progression of their disease.”

Parkinson’s disease can present with a wide range of symptoms, such as tremors, muscle stiffness, or impaired balance and coordination. Symptoms can differ from patient to patient, making diagnosis and treatment difficult and often resulting in extensive medical visits and medications.

“There are symptoms that you can observe with the naked eye, such as patients taking smaller steps or an imbalance,” Wang says. “However, many cannot be seen using current tests and technology available. This inability to accurately characterize symptoms has physical consequences, but can also lead to psychological suffering due to pain and immobility.

Smart insoles have metal plates underneath with wires sticking out of them and electronics in the foam.
The smart insoles collect toe tapping test data and transfer the information to a phone app. (Credit: Texas A&M)

Professionals using a combination of walking and toe tapping tests where the patient’s movements are closely observed can diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms are analyzed using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS).

However, this method poses risks for patients with mobility difficulties, both when traveling to the doctor’s office and when performing the test itself. Additionally, this does not account for subtle symptoms that are not visual or may not show up during walk tests.

“Experiments with patients show that when you ask them to walk, they are usually very nervous, which leads to differences from their normal walking,” says Wang. “This can be confusing when diagnosing walking behaviors and requires a long period of data.”

To combat this problem, researchers have developed a toe tapping test that uses smart technologies capable of compiling massive amounts of data, uncovering insights that can help diagnose patients, characterize their symptoms and, over time, time, to show the progression of the disease.

The test begins with inserting the wearable insole into any shoe. As the patient performs a series of toe tapping patterns, the smart insole collects and transfers real-time data to an accessible phone app. The more tests a patient performs, the more elaborate and accurate the data becomes.

“With a simple tap of the toes, the app can tell if a symptom is being managed appropriately and if management, such as physical therapy or medication, is effective,” says Wang. “If management is not appropriate or effective, the app may suggest a visit to the doctor, recommend an increase or decrease in dosage and/or frequency of medication, or provide insight into the effectiveness or failure of new drugs and previous treatments.”

The main finding of the study is that toe tapping tests can provide results, almost as accurate as the walking test, that indicate a patient’s risk of falling according to the UPDRS scale.

Because the test can be performed at home with fewer resources and the information collected is easily accessible to the patient, it offers people with Parkinson’s disease the opportunity to receive essential medical care at a lower cost through a process safer and less restrictive.

“We provide a way for patients to easily understand how their symptoms and medications correlate while outlining risks in an easy-to-use platform,” says Wang. “In the future, we want to use this technology to develop preventive measures installed in the sensors to help ensure their safety.”

The study appears in IEEE sensors Letters.

Source: Michelle Revels for Texas A&M University


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