For the more than 10 million people living with Parkinson’s, tracking the progression of the disease is vital in letting doctors know if patients are responding well to medications, if symptoms are getting more severe, and how the disease is affecting daily life.
The problem for many patients, however, is that they can’t always get to a hospital or doctor’s office easily – whether it’s because they live too far away or because their illness prevents them from traveling easily. That’s why a team of MIT researchers developed a tiny device about the size of a Wi-Fi router that can wirelessly monitor patients in their home.
In a previous study, the device demonstrated the ability to detect Parkinson’s disease simply by “listening” to people sleeping — thanks to an AI that researchers trained to analyze a person’s breathing patterns as they snooze.
In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the same team found that the device is also able to wirelessly track a patient’s movement 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 having a device in the house that can track a patient and tell the doctor remotely about the progression of the disease, and the patient’s medication response, so they can help the patient even if the patient can’t get to the hospital.” come. clinic — now they have real, reliable information — that really goes a long way in improving equity and access,” Dina Katabi, an MIT computer science researcher and a senior author of the study, said in a press release.
The device works by sending radio signals through a room the patient is in, which then bounces back to it, allowing it to “see” its surroundings. It’s no different than the same way that bats use echolocation to pick up on their surroundings. The device’s AI can identify and monitor the patient as they go about their day in their room.
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 monitor the progression and severity of Parkinson’s better than with an occasional face-to-face visit.
“By continuously monitoring the patient as they move around the room, we were able to get really 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 that much data, we were able to do 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. While not a cure, it can really benefit the lives of the many millions living with the neurodegenerative disease, giving them a better quality of care and life – all from the comfort of their bedrooms.