Tokyo Tech researchers develop the WalkMate System for improving the quality of life of Parkinson's disease patients

Tokyo Tech researchers develop the WalkMate System for improving the quality of life of Parkinson’s disease patients
Schematic illustration and components of the WalkMate system. Copyright: Tokyo Institute of Technology

Tokyo Tech's Yoshihiro Miyake and colleagues have developed an innovative, non-invasive therapeutic intervention that may improve the mobility, stability, and quality of life of Parkinson's disease patients.

The unintentional synchronizing of people's gait as they walk together is a familiar phenomenon. Understanding the mechanisms behind this synchronization could help people with a disturbed gait, such as patients suffering from Parkinson's disease. Research by Yoshihiro Miyake at the Department of and Systems Science at Tokyo Institute of Technology has helped to demystify the process and led to a new walking support device—'Walk Mate'.

Yoshihiro Miyake investigated coupled walking processes between a and a walking person. The study included people with a healthy gait and people suffering from Parkinson's disease or hemiplegia due to brain infraction. He used the timing of the walking person as a for the robot and the sound of a walking rhythm as the robot's output. An algorithm based on travelling wave dynamics controlled the timing difference between the Walk Mate's input and output.

The study revealed how people adjust their pace in response to the robot's audible output. Patients' stride patterns were healthier using 'Walk Mate' and they reported a greater stability and "sense of togetherness" compared with more traditional that have a fixed rhythm. Further studies in collaboration with researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and and the Department of Neurology at Kanto Central Hospital have underlined the great potential of the device.

"Our approach offers a flexible, portable, low-cost, non-invasive that may improve the mobility, stability, and quality of life of Parkinson's disease patients," say the inventors.

The technology is also described in the August issue of Tokyo Institute of Technology Bulletin: www.titech.ac.jp/bulletin/index.html .

More information: Miyake Y (2009) Interpersonal Synchronization of Body Motion and the Walk-MateWalking Support Robot IEEE Transactions on robotics 25(3): 638-644. Doi: 10.1109/TRO.2009.2020350
Hove MJ, Suzuki K, Uchitomi H, Orimo S, Miyake Y (2012) Interactive Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation Reinstates Natural 1/f Timing in Gait of Parkinson's Patients. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32600. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032600

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Organized chaos gets robots going (Update)

Jan 17, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Even simple insects can generate quite different movement patterns with their six legs. The animal uses various gaits depending on whether it crawls uphill or downhill, slowly or fast. Scientists ...

Parkinson's: Treadmill training improves movement

Jan 19, 2010

Treadmill training can be used to help people with Parkinson's disease achieve better walking movements, say researchers. In a systematic review of the evidence, Cochrane Researchers concluded treadmill training could be ...

Recommended for you

A 'frenemy' in Parkinson's disease takes to crowdsourcing

Sep 29, 2014

The protein alpha-synuclein is a well-known player in Parkinson's disease and other related neurological conditions, such as dementia with Lewy bodies. Its normal functions, however, have long remained unknown. An enticing ...

Mechanism of Parkinson's spread demonstrated

Sep 22, 2014

An international, interdisciplinary group of researchers led by Gabor G. Kovacs from the Clinical Institute of Neurology at the MedUni Vienna has demonstrated, through the use of a new antibody, how Parkinson's ...

Researchers debunk myth about Parkinson's disease

Sep 16, 2014

Using advanced computer models, neuroscience researchers at the University of Copenhagen have gained new knowledge about the complex processes that cause Parkinson's disease. The findings have recently been ...

User comments