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Wearable Sensor For the Early Diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease

Wearable technology is changing the way we live as it enables easy tracking of movement, biometrics, and health data that can help enhance a person’s quality of life and improve health care.

Wearable Sensor For the Early Diagnosis of Parkinson

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While not intended to replace the role of doctors or other medical professionals, wearable technology is helping to advance certain areas of healthcare as it supports early diagnosis and helps monitor patients with existing conditions.

For example, a recent study in Japan claims that the heart rate of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease exhibits less variability than the heart rate of otherwise healthy individuals of the same age. This has led the group of Japan-based researchers to propose using wearable technology to aid the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s as a reduction in the variability of heart rate is associated with the disease.

The paper “Wearable sensor device-based detection of decreased heart rate variability in Parkinson’s disease” was recently published in the Journal of Neural Transmission.

Given its easy applicability and non-invasiveness, wearable sensors are also suitable for screening subjects at high risk [for Parkinson’s].

Dr. Masahisa Katsuno, Nagoya University

Early Detection of Non-Motor Symptoms

While often associated with the visible motor symptoms such as tremors and slowness of movement, it is the nonmotor symptoms such as disruptions with sleep patterns and emotional changes that can serve as an early warning sign.

Recent research claims that non-motor symptoms typically develop prior to the onset of commonly-known motor symptoms during the “prodromal” period. Thus, finding new ways to monitor non-motor symptoms more routinely, using technologies such as wearable sensors, could aid the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

If patients are diagnosed earlier, it could mean they receive proper and more effective treatments during the early stages of the disease. Moreover, it can help patients prepare better in the long term and formulate an appropriate healthcare plan which can slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life.  

Monitoring Heart Rate Variability

Previous studies identified a reduced heart rate variability (HRV) in patients suffering from Parkinson’s. An otherwise healthy person’s heart rate would vary based on daily activities; this is less likely in those with Parkinson’s.

The researchers analyzed the HRV data from wearable sensors in two small control groups – one with patients suffering from Parkinson’s and the other without. While the two groups were similar in terms of age and other demographics, there were no restrictions on activity levels during the 24 monitoring period.

The HRV data harvested from the wearable sensors showed that those suffering from Parkinson’s had a higher heart rate than those without. The team then calculated the average deviations in heart rate over the 24-hour period and found that it was much lower in the small control group of patients with Parkinson’s.

Our assessment method was effective in detecting decreased HRV in patients [with Parkinson’s.

Dr. Masahisa Katsuno, Nagoya University

While the control group was relatively small, just 27 participants with Parkinson’s, the wearable sensors could prove effective in detecting HRV if applied to a larger study. Therefore, the team acknowledges the need to take the study into a larger control group, preferably in the prodromal stage of the disease, to confirm reproducibility.

Although we detected decreased HRV parameters in [Parkinson’s] by evaluating the entire record for approximately 24 h[ours], we found that extracting the minimum or relatively low (the first decile in this study) values of HRV parameters in selected sections resulted in better discrimination.

Dr. Masahisa Katsuno, Nagoya University

For now, this study shows the potential for an exciting development in using wearable technology to aid the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease while also demonstrating how the technology can help monitor less obvious early symptoms of disease in general. This means that in the future, more people may have access to better treatment and care plans as well as a better quality of life.

References and Further Reading

Wexler, M., (2022) Wrist-worn Sensors for Heart Rate May Aid Early Parkinson’s.... [online] Parkinson’s News Today. Available at: https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/news/wearable-sensors-heart-rate-variability-parkinsons-diagnosis/?cn-reloaded=1

Suzuki, M., Nakamura, T., Hirayama, M., et al., (2022) Wearable sensor device-based detection of decreased heart rate variability in Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neural Transmission, [online] Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00702-022-02528-y

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David J. Cross

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David J. Cross

David is an academic researcher and interdisciplinary artist. David's current research explores how science and technology, particularly the internet and artificial intelligence, can be put into practice to influence a new shift towards utopianism and the reemergent theory of the commons.

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