Algorithms and wearable sensors help clinicians to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease. (Credit: EPFL)

Scientists have developed algorithms that, combined with wearable sensors, could help clinicians to monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease and assess the effects of medications commonly used by people with this neurodegenerative disorder.

Doctors caring for people with Parkinson’s disease need to be able to assess the severity of the symptoms and alter the doses of medications that reduce such symptoms. To do so, clinicians rely on a handful of tests, such as those that measure gait speed — or how fast people walk.

Researchers recruited 27 people with Parkinson’s disease and provided each of them with a foot-worn sensor that recorded how fast they walked. During the clinical assessment, the researchers asked patients to do two types of walking tests: in one, people had to walk for 20 meters in a straight line; in another test, they were asked to walk in circles for five times. The walking tests were done when patients were on a medication that reduces motor problems, and then they repeated when individuals were off the medication. Based on data collected from the sensors, the team calculated the average and the fastest gait speed for each individual.

The findings suggest that monitoring gait speed during daily activities with wearable technology could help doctors optimize medication dosages depending on motor symptoms of individual patients. The sensors and the dedicated algorithms allow clinicians to monitor patients remotely, which could help to protect vulnerable people in situations such as the coronavirus pandemic.

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