Parkinson's disease is an age-related disorder involving loss of certain types of brain cells and marked by impaired movement and slow speech.
"The disease is currently diagnosed by tremors at rest and stiffness in the body and limbs," said Xuemei Huang, associate professor of neurology, Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. "But by the time we diagnose the disease, about 50 to 80 percent of the critical cells called dopamine neurons are already dead."
Huang and her colleagues are studying gait, or the manner in which people walk, to understand the physical signs that might be a very early marker for the onset of Parkinson's. They have confirmed Huang's clinical impression that in people with Parkinson's, the arm swing is asymmetrical. In other words, one arm swings much less than the other as a person walks.
"We know that Parkinson's patients lose their arm swing even very early in the disease but nobody had looked using a scientifically measured approach to see if the loss was asymmetrical or when this asymmetry first showed up," said Huang. Her team's findings appear in the current issue of Gait and Posture. "Our hypothesis is that because Parkinson's is an asymmetrical disease, the arm swing on one arm will be lost first compared to the other."
The researchers compared the arm swing of 12 people diagnosed three years earlier with Parkinson's, to eight people in a control group. The Parkinson's patients were asked to stop all medication the night before to avoid influencing the test results.
The team used special equipment to measure movement accurately, including many reflective markers on the study participants and eight digital cameras that captured the exact position of each segment of the body during a walk.
"Images from the cameras were sent to a computer where special software analyzed the data" explained Huang. "When a person walks, the computer was able to calculate the degree of swing of each arm with millimeter accuracy."
Analysis of the magnitude of arm swing, asymmetry and walking speed revealed that the arm swing of people with Parkinson's has remarkably greater asymmetry than people in the control group -- one arm swung significantly less than the other in the Parkinson's patients.
When the participants walked at a faster speed, the arm swing increased but the corresponding asymmetry between them remained the same.
"We believe this is the first demonstration that asymmetrical arm swings may be a very early sign of the disease," said Huang.
While slightly irregular arm swing occurs in people without Parkinson's, the asymmetry is significantly larger in those suffering from the disease.
"Our data suggests that this could be a very useful tool for the early detection of Parkinson's," noted Huang. "There are wide scale efforts to find drugs that slow cell death. When they are found, they could be used in conjunction with this technique to arrest or perhaps cure the disease because they could be given before great damage has occurred."
Other researchers in the study include Michael D. Lewek, assistant professor of exercise and sport science; Roxanne Poole, study coordinator; Julia Johnson, clinical fellow, and Omar Halawa, medical student, all at University of North Carolina.
The National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina Center for Human Movement Sciences funded this work. Penn State has filed a provisional patent application on behalf of the scientists.
Amitabh Avasthi | EurekAlert!
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences