Researchers at Columbia University have developed a system called the Tethered Pelvic Assist Device (TPAD), which can help Parkinson’s patients to improve their gait stability after just one training session.
Fall rates in adults with advanced Parkinson’s disease are twice as high as those in healthy adults of a comparable age. Finding strategies to reduce the number of falls that these patients experience could be life changing. “Most falls in Parkinson’s disease are reported during walking, and gait disorders are one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease, but previous studies on Parkinson’s disease subjects have focused on responses to balance perturbations only while standing,” says Sunil Agrawal, a researcher involved in the study.
The research team set out to help Parkinson’s patients to improve their gait stability. Their TPAD is a cable-driven robot that is light enough to wear. It applies forces on the pelvis in various directions as a subject walks on a treadmill. The idea is that these repeated and unexpected pelvic perturbations help patients to develop reactive and adaptive responses during a training program, increasing their gait stability and reducing their likelihood of a fall outside of training.
“Our data showed that one single session of perturbation-based balance training produced acute effects that ameliorated gait instability in Parkinson’s disease patients,” says Dario Martelli, first author on the study. “This result is encouraging for designing new therapeutic interventions that remediate falls risk.”
The team hopes that these types of training programs could allow Parkinson’s patients to develop control strategies to avoid falls, reducing their risk of injury.
Here’s a video showing how the TPAD is used:
Study in Scientific Reports: Adaptation of Stability during Perturbed Walking in Parkinson’s Disease…