Irish scientists in Parkinson's disease breakthrough
A new electronic device developed by scientists in Galway could improve the lives of people with Parkinson's disease by helping them to walk more easily.
The device is worn around the waist and delivers fixed rhythmic sensory electrical stimulation to prevent what is called "freezing of gait" - a feeling that your feet are stuck to the floor, and one of the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's. This freezing, which happens in the advanced stages of the disease, is unpredictable and leads to a greater risk of falls and a fear of falling among sufferers.
It can also lead to social isolation and depression.
However, researchers at NUI Galway, working in collaboration with colleagues from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), have carried out a clinical study which has shown promising results for those with Parkinson's.
The cueStim device was used on nine people with the disease and significantly reduced the time it took them to complete a walking task. It also more than halved their number of freezing episodes.
Some patients responded better than others and the reasons for this require further investigation, said the researchers.
Dr Leo Quinlan, lecturer in physiology in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway and a co-investigator in the study, said the results were "very encouraging".
Freezing of gait is one of the "most frustrating and difficult symptoms for patients to suffer and specialists to treat", according to researcher Lois Rosenthal, of NHSGGC.