HOUSTON – Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a biofeedback system to help people with Parkinson’s disease rehab at home.
“Our overarching goal is to improve their quality of life by improving postural stability, reducing the number of falls and increasing their confidence in daily activities,” said Beom-Chan Lee, principle investigator of a study that is assessing the impacts of long-term rehabilitative training on patients using the system, in a statement.
The Smarter Balance System is a smartphone-based biofeedback system that guides patients through a series of balance exercises while they use wearable technology.
The custom, wearable belt lined with vibrating actuators creates a personalized, in-home rehabilitation program with touch guidance based on a patient’s individual range of motion. Each subtle movement is mapped in real-time for visual guidance using a series of dots and targets on the smartphone application.
The smartphone application records and creates a custom motion for their body tilt based on their individual limits of stability, said Alberto Fung, one of the researchers, in a statement.
“The touch guidance from the vibrating actuators is almost acting as if a physical therapist is guiding them,” he said.
All of the information collected by the system is uploaded to an online server and potentially can be accessed by doctors and physical therapists to track a patient’s progress or adjust the exercise regimen.
“Our system is centered around the user, and it minimizes manual interactions and is mostly automated,” said Fung.
The technology could be used by anyone experiencing balance issues, including the elderly, said Lee.
Technical improvements are currently being made to the system followed by more human subject testing. Lee said he hopes to commercialize the technology as early as next summer.