News ArchivesRead News
Dissecting the distinctive walk of disease
Tuesday July 02, 2013
University of Pittsburg
Science Codex - Older adults diagnosed with brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease often feel a loss of independence because of their lack of mobility and difficulty walking. To better understand and improve these mobility issues—and detect them sooner—a University of Pittsburgh multidisciplinary research team is working toward building a more advanced motion test that addresses a wider range of walking patterns and movements.
In a recent issue of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, researchers from Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and School of Medicine propose a mathematical model that can examine multiple walking, or gait-related, features in healthy and clinical populations. To date, no study has brought together such a team to examine such a high number of movement features comparing healthy and clinical older adults. Previous studies have typically only measured one or two types of movement features in just one population.
"Right away, you can tell whether an older individual has difficulties walking by conducting a simple gait test," said Ervin Sejdic, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of engineering in the Swanson School. "But can we quantify these changes and document them earlier? That's the biggest issue here and what we're trying to model."
Thirty-five adults older than 65 were recruited for the study, including 14 healthy participants, 10 individuals with Parkinson's disease, and 11 adults who had impaired feeling in their legs owing to peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). Walking trials were performed using a computer-controlled treadmill, and participants wore an accelerometer—a small box attached with a belt—and a set of reflective markers on their lower body that allowed for tracking of the participants' movements through a camera-based, motion-analysis system. These two systems allowed the team to examine the torso and lower body movements of patients as they walked. Participants completed three walking trials on the treadmill—one at a usual walking pace, another while walking slowly, and another that included working on a task while walking (i.e. pushing a button in response to a sound).
The accelerometer signals were used to examine three aspects of movement: participants moving forward and backward, side to side, and up and down. The researchers then used advanced mathematical computations to extract data from these signals.
The results—integrated into the mathematical models—showed significant differences between the healthy and clinical populations. These metrics were able to discriminate between the three groups, identifying critical features in how the participants walked.
The Pitt team is now looking to conduct this type of study on a larger scale—evaluating the gait patterns of older adults residing within independent living facilities.
"Our results indicate that we can potentially develop these mathematical models as biomarkers to predict changes in walking due to diseases like Parkinson's disease," said Sejdic. "Now, we want to take it further. We're especially hoping to help those individuals in independent living facilities by predicting the declines in their walking even earlier."
"What also makes this study unique is the multidisciplinary team approach we used," said Jennifer S. Brach (SHRS '94G, '00G) coprincipal investigator of the study and associate professor in Pitt's Department of Physical Therapy. "Here we brought together a research team that included engineers, physical therapists, and experts in geriatrics to work on an important problem in older adults—changes in mobility."
Recent NewsNov 17 - 'Moving Day' participant is not letting young-onset Parkinson's disease stop him
Nov 17 - Focused ultrasound shows promise for treating Parkinson's tremor
Nov 17 - New research to target air pollution as a potential trigger for Parkinson’s
Nov 17 - This device will let you feel what it's like to suffer from Parkinson's
Nov 10 - How does Parkinson's disease influence depression?
Nov 10 - House votes to repeal ObamaCare's Medicare cost-cutting board
Nov 10 - Microsoft shows off watch that quiets Parkinson's tremors
Nov 3 - Utah group battling Parkinson's disease with boxing
Nov 3 - UVA-LED STUDY EXAMINES POTENTIAL OF SOUND WAVES TO MANAGE PARKINSON’S DISEASE
Oct 27 - Herbicide's link to Parkinson's disease
Oct 27 - NTU Singapore, KAIST scientists discover new mechanism that causes Parkinsonian symptoms
Oct 27 - 70,000 Washingtonians face higher insurance costs after Trump order, officials say
Oct 18 - Brain disconnections may contribute to Parkinson's hallucinations
Oct 18 - Fighting Parkinson's disease through dance
Oct 17 - Scientists Identify Structure of PINK1, Key Parkinson’s-protective Protein
Oct 17 - Diabetes drug cuts Parkinson's risk by 28 percent, study finds
Oct 10 - Advances in Brain Pacemaker Reduces Tremors, Helps Parkinson's Sufferers Live a More Normal Life
Oct 10 - Medical History Could Help Predict Parkinson's Disease Risk Long Before Diagnosis
Oct 3 - Changes in Olfactory Bulb Explain Loss of Smell in Early Stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Study Finds
Oct 3 - Sleep Disturbances May Worsen Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease, Study Suggests