The Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Shake It Up Australia Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF & SIUAF) have funded a clinical trial to test eHealth and smart garment technologies to prevent falls in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Led by Dr Matthew Brodie, a neuroscientist, engineer and senior lecturer at UNSW’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, the Walking Tall study aims to compare two different remote neuro-rehabilitation programs that aim to help people living with Parkinson’s walk better and reduce falls risk.
Falls are a common and often devastating event in the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease. They are frequently caused by gait impairments, postural instability and freezing-of-gait, a brief absence of forward momentum of the feet despite the intention to walk.
How does the program work?
Walking Tall is a home-based self-managed program designed specifically for people with PD. It is designed to rehabilitate gait and balance in a minimum of 6-weeks using affordable eHealth technologies (tablet, phone, smart socks, step mat and ear buds). The Walking Tall program uses rhythmic cues to address excessive step-time variability, balance impairments and freezing of gait.
The combination of visual, audio and sensory elements helps to form new connections in less affected parts of the brain, leading to improved walking ability.
The program enables participants to self-manage and monitor their own progress via an app on their phone. The app can also trigger stimuli during everyday activities, such as vibration in their Smart Socks, if they are in danger of experiencing freezing-of-gait, falls or if they show signs of shuffling feet.
Clinicians can also monitor participants’ progress remotely and adjust the program to provide ongoing and personalised continuity of care.
Improving quality of life for people with Parkinson’s
“People with Parkinson’s disease have substantial barriers to maintaining their independence. Our program has individually tailored tools to empower all people with Parkinson’s to manage their symptoms, increase capacity to remain independent and enjoy the highest possible quality of life,” says Dr Matthew Brodie.
“Working with our global partners at Sensoria and Tyree iHealth, our program has the potential to impact the way Parkinson’s disease is treated around the world,” adds Dr Brodie.
Clyde Campbell, Founder and CEO of the Shake It Up Australia Foundation says the potential to reduce falls for people living with Parkinson’s is a priority. “Together with our partners at The Michael J. Fox Foundation we are very pleased to support this research to improve the quality of life for anyone living with Parkinson’s who has gait and balance difficulties. Our focus is on finding improved treatments to slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s and increase independence for those living with the disease. “
If successful, the Walking Tall program could be made available to people with Parkinson’s around the world, on completion of the study.
Watch the story on Nine News
Walking Tall Health’s patented “Marathon” bands were first used by a person living with Parkinson’s on the 25th of April 2021 to complete a 42km marathon walk and raise money for Shake It Up Australia: https://youtu.be/xWEcfV45cP8
Recruitment for this study has now commenced. To express your interest in participating please complete this survey and a member of the study research team will contact you. https://forms.gle/H547SDyXwTbz3srN6