Costing the United States over $25 billion a year, Parkinson’s Disease- a debilitating neurodegenerative condition that causes tremors, postural imbalance, a loss of motor function, and many other symptoms which severely limit a patient’s independence- affects more than seven million people worldwide.
We sought to develop an assistive device that counteracts tremors and improves balance in patients with mid-to-late stages of Parkinson’s to allow them to better perform everyday tasks such as walking, dressing, and eating.
We researched two stimulation processes that could be improved and combined to more efficiently combat tremors and imbalance: deep brain stimulation (DBS) and galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS). DBS reduces tremors by sending electric currents to the brain through surgically implanted electrodes, but as a result of constant stimulation, it has a short battery life and high potential to overstimulate untargeted areas of the brain. GVS affects sense of balance by sending electric currents to the mastoid process; however, it has yet to be implemented into a compact, wearable device.
Our device consists of a wristband that analyzes arm and hand tremors and a GVS headpiece that detects and corrects a patient’s imbalance. The DBS wristband contains an accelerometer and a microcontroller that activates the patient’s implanted DBS system only when tremors are occurring. The GVS component consists of two small electrodes connected to a 9V battery, an absolute orientation sensor, and a microcontroller that sends the appropriate current to the electrodes, all housed in a compact box attached to an elastic waistband.
Our device makes GVS portable, and by syncing directly to the DBS system, extends its battery life and reduces chances of overstimulation. As a result, it improves the detection and correction of tremors and imbalance, enabling Parkinson's patients to live without feeling as severely handicapped by their condition.
(Left to right) Alex Tenorio, Alexa Thomson, Priscilla Lui, and Josh Ott worked on designing portable GVS and DBS system to improve quality of life of Parkinson's patients. They developed a portable GVS and DBS system that detects, and therefore, corrects Parkinsonian tremors and imbalance.
Click here to see the group's poster.