Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that affects many elements of day to day functionality, changing a person’s experience of their everyday life. One of these elements is movement, with freezing, stumbling and falling all common symptoms of Parkinson’s.
A recent pilot study in Canada has seen some radical changes in patient’s walking, resulting from electrical stimulation to their spines. The research suggests that triggering a boost to the signals going from the legs to the brain can not only assist in the person’s walking at the time of the boost, but that this can ‘reawaken’ the signal path, resulting in improvements to gait for a period of time after the initial stimulation.
It has commonly been assumed that freezing and gait-related problems result from brain signals becoming blocked on their route to the legs, yet this study suggests that by enabling the return information, from legs to brain, the person’s walking and gait pattern is remarkably improved.
Individuals involved with the study have seen a huge improvement to their movement, and therefore to their freedom within their own lives. Gail Jardine, one of the people with Parkinson’s who took part in the study and featured in the BBC News’s video notes that she has not had a fall in over two months – when she used to fall almost twice daily. Guy Alden’s Parkinson’s often resulted in freezing, which he found particularly embarrassing when in public. His story is of a freedom to walk in crowds without concern. Both individuals have experienced a huge improvement to their daily living, and the quality of that life.
The study’s success, although early in its journey, is an exciting first step towards successful mainstream treatment of this Parkinson’s symptom, and an intriguing addition to our understanding of how the movement disorder elements may be caused in those living with the neurological condition.
- To view a video of one of the recipients undergoing monitoring and sharing her story, or to read more, see the BBC’s full article.
- Interested in gait-related Parkinson’s research? Hear from Faculty member and academic geriatrician Dr Emily Henderson on her own work in this field.
- Wondering how to get started in research yourself? Find out more from our series on Research Engagement.