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AR Programme Transforms Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

AR may assist direct physical treatment for Parkinson’s disease

Software may also benefit people with various movement problems. 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s computer scientists have created software and an augmented reality (AR) headgear that enable medical professionals to assess a patient’s movement in order to better direct their physical treatment.

By recreating their actions, clinicians may also utilise their own AR headsets to fully immerse themselves in their patients’ realities.

The loss of neurons, or nerve cells, that generate the signalling substance dopamine—which is involved in regulating movement—causes Parkinson’s disease. Patients then have motor symptoms that raise their risk of falling, such as tremor, stiffness or rigidity, and balance issues.

Evidence suggests that increasing physical activity may help reduce motor symptoms and decrease the course of Parkinson’s disease. In people with the condition, less physical activity has been related to a quicker deterioration in motor function.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease may find that their quality of life is significantly improved by physical therapy. Not many patients, nevertheless, have insurance that pays for regular visits to physical therapy. Furthermore, it is sometimes impossible for patients to go to clinics that provide this kind of treatment if they live in remote places or have restricted mobility.

The Parkinson’s Project driven by augmented reality was started by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) in partnership with medical professionals at Carolina to get beyond these restrictions.

In order to monitor their movements and interactions with their environment, patients wear augmented reality headsets and motion sensors. The software allows physicians to watch and evaluate patient motions in authentic home environments.

One of the project’s researchers, Henry Fuchs, PhD, the Federico Gil Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at UNC-Chapel Hill, said in a university press release that they could only capture this data with technology that they are wearing every day.

The research makes use of the PD-Insighter programme, which was created by PhD candidate in computer science Jade Kandel and assistant professor of computer science Danielle Szafir, PhD, together with Fuchs, as mentors.

Szafir enquired about what could be done to ramp up the natural aspect of the creation. She also wants to discover how people can modify their skills instead of relying on qualified data science professionals.

Clinicians can evaluate the data in minutes rather than hours thanks to the software’s combination of visuals and data visualisation. It also has a desktop dashboard that lists patient activities and rapidly reveals motor impairments or freezes.

Unlike virtual reality headsets, which are often used for gaming, augmented reality glasses allow the wearer to observe their surroundings while adding images to them.

Additionally, doctors may see digital replicas of their patients’ surroundings and a 3D body skeleton of their patients by using their own augmented reality goggles.

The scientists believe people will be wearing glasses, equipped with cameras that can look up, down, and inside in order to record body language and facial expressions, among other things, Fuchs said.

Although the programme was first created with Parkinson’s disease in mind, the researchers think it may also help patients with other conditions, such as stroke victims or those recovering from surgery.

Indeed, this is fantastic for Parkinson’s disease, but it can also be used for rehabilitation in a wide range of other disorders, according to Kandel.

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