One in twenty people who are paralysed by Parkinson’s disease could soon be able to walk thanks to the PARREHA project, funded with the help of 1.68 million euros from the Information Society Technologies (IST) area of the EU’s Framework Programme.
With two in every 1000 people suffering with Parkinsons disease, a disorder of the central nervous system, there are currently 700,000 people affected in the European Union alone – and this number is forecast to increase as the population gets older. Parkinsons is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine - a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain – leaving sufferers unable to direct or control their movement in the normal manner. This is why many people who have Parkinsons have difficulty walking in conditions that would normally present no problems - such as an unobstructed corridor.
Ironically, scientists have discovered that when visual obstructions - often as simple as pieces of paper set down on the floor - are placed in their way, some people with Parkinsons can walk normally. This little understood effect is called kinesia paradoxa. PARREHA utilised the development of virtual reality technology to develop a light headset that enables the wearer to see the virtual visual cues wherever they look and at the same continue to see their actual surroundings.
Dave Sanders | alfa
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