New research has shown that smartphones and watches like the Apple Watch can be used to capture important characteristics of early, untreated Parkinson’s disease.
The technology could give researchers more objective and continuous ways to measure the disease, allowing new treatments to get to market faster, especially for patients in the early stages of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is the fastest growing brain disease in the world, but most of the drugs used to treat it have been developed over the last century.
The complexity of the disease and the limitations of current interventions have been obstacles to new therapies.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can vary significantly from patient to patient, and the tools traditionally used to track the disease are subjective and episodic.
They are only collected during visits to the clinic, which limits insight into the impact of Parkinson’s disease on people’s daily lives.
University of Rochester researchers pioneered the use of digital health technologies such as telemedicine, wearables, remote monitoring and mobile apps to improve access to care and conduct decentralized clinical trials.
In 2015, URMC neurologist Ray Dorsey, MD, and the CHeT team collaborated with Sage Bionetworks to launch the first smartphone research application for real-time monitoring of Parkinson’s disease.
Since the launch of this app, the proliferation of smartwatches and advances in technology, particularly in gyroscopes and accelerometers that can measure movement more precisely, have increased the research potential of these devices.
In the new WATCH-PD study, researchers at multiple US sites recruited and followed 82 people with untreated early-stage Parkinson’s disease and 50 age-matched controls for 12 months.
The study volunteers wore research-grade sensors, an Apple Watch, and an iPhone while performing standardized exams at the clinic.
At home, the participants wore the smartwatch for seven days after each clinic visit and completed motor, language, and cognitive tasks on the smartphone every two weeks.
The smartphone app tracked fingertape speed, cognitive task performance, and speech, while the smartwatch was able to measure arm movement, tremor duration, and gait characteristics.
The researchers were able to identify motor and non-motor characteristics that differed between people with early-stage Parkinson’s and age-matched controls.
The team is now conducting a study that will follow participants over time to determine which digital measures are sensitive enough to help researchers assess whether an experimental therapy has a meaningful impact on disease progression.
These results support what other studies have shown – digital devices can distinguish between people with and without early-stage Parkinson’s disease and are more sensitive than traditional rating scales to some measurements of Parkinson’s disease.
Better measures will lead to more efficient, patient-centric and timely evaluation of therapies.
The ability to detect Parkinson’s disease earlier and more accurately using smartphones and watches could lead to better treatments and outcomes for patients.
If you are interested in Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about it Vitamin E, which may help prevent Parkinson’s diseaseAnd Vitamin D could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.
For more information on brain health, see recent studies on new ways to treat Parkinson’s disease and results showing COVID-19 may be linked to Parkinson’s disease.
The study was conducted by Jamie Adams et al published In npj Parkinson’s disease.
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