This post was first published on Medagadget.
People with Parkinson’s disease and some other neurological disorders often suffer from a condition known as freezing of gait. For poorly understood reasons, initiating a step is often a challenge. Patients report a feeling of disassociation between one’s will to move and the legs not responding accordingly. This is both frustrating and can lead to falls in many cases.
With many neurological conditions, fooling the brain, by diverting attention and using other tricks, often works to alleviate symptoms. A new device is now available that utilizes intuitive visual and audio cues to help people with Parkinson’s and similar conditions walk confidently with every step.
The NexStride attaches to canes, walkers, and walking poles. A green laser generates a line ahead of the user’s feet while a metronome clicks at a steady rate. The two effects work together to effectively prod the brain to move the legs deliberately and without hesitation. The green line gives users a target onto which to step, which is always there and always the same, while the beat seems to behave like a gentle nudge to get going.
The distance to the green line can be adjusted by simply tilting the NexStride and the rate of the metronome’s beat and volume are set with a couple of tuning knobs.
It is hoped that this new technology will allow people with Parkinson’s to get out and about with greater ease, and coincidentally receive much needed exercise that seems to help slow the progression of the disease.
Here’s a promo video introducing the NexStride: