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Lasers help Parkinson patients

Researchers have developed a pair of shoes equipped with lasers to help those suffering from Parkinson disease.

These clever shoes help to prevent "freezing" in Parkinson disease sufferers and thus help them to walk normally. In sufferers, the person's foot stays firmly on the floor but their upper body keeps moving forward, causing the person to lose balance. The laser works by projecting a line onto the floor in front of the person's foot and then it is treated like an obstacle for the person to step over, thus stopping the "freezing".

A study by the University of Twente has found this can aid sufferers and stop them from falling over but there is still a way to go with the shoes.

Researcher Murielle Ferraye said: "Ideally, the laser should only be activated once the blockage is detected, but we're not quite there yet."

Their findings were published in the Neurology journal, where they went into more detail about the experiments they had carried out.

Explaining what they had set out to do and their results, they wrote: "[We set out] to assess, in a cross-sectional study, the feasibility and immediate efficacy of laser shoes, a new ambulatory visual cueing device with practical applicability for use in daily life, on freezing of gait (FOG) and gait measures in Parkinson disease (PD).

"We tested 21 patients with PD and FOG, both "off" and "on" medication. In a controlled gait laboratory, we measured the number of FOG episodes and the percent time frozen occurring during a standardized walking protocol that included FOG provoking circumstances. Participants performed 10 trials with and 10 trials without cueing. FOG was assessed using offline video analysis by an independent rater. Gait measures were recorded in between FOG episodes with the use of accelerometry.

"Cueing using laser shoes was associated with a significant reduction in the number of FOG episodes, both "off" (45.9%) and "on" (37.7%) medication. Moreover, laser shoes significantly reduced the percent time frozen by 56.5% (95% confidence interval [CI] 32.5-85.8; p = 0.004) when "off" medication. The reduction while "on" medication was slightly smaller (51.4%, 95% CI −41.8 to 91.5; p = 0.075). These effects were paralleled by patients' positive subjective experience on laser shoes' efficacy. There were no clinically meaningful changes in the gait measures."

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