Gesture-control armband also keeps a close eye on MS
For people afflicted with multiple sclerosis (MS), it can be difficult to quantify how their condition fluctuates over short periods of time. According to a new study, though, an existing device is able to detect subtle changes that might otherwise be missed.
Ordinarily, the progress of MS is tracked via occasional assessments performed at a clinic. This means that when problems or improvements are noticed, they may have been taking place over a period of up to a few years. As a result, there may be quite a lag between those changes first occurring, and any corresponding changes in treatment being implemented.
Led by scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, an international team of researchers instead looked to a commercially-available product known as the MYO-band. Designed primarily for gesture control of electronic devices, it's normally worn on the arm, and is equipped with accelerometers, gyroscopes and surface electromyography electrodes – the latter detect electrical nerve impulses, through the skin.
The MYO-band was tested on 117 MS patients, along with a control group of 30 healthy individuals. In an exercise that took less than five minutes a day, it was worn on the forearm or calf, as the person performed 20 finger- or foot-taps, respectively. That process was completed on all four limbs, with the data being wirelessly transmitted to a nearby computer for analysis.
As compared to "gold standard" clinical methods, the technique was found to be reliable for the detection of small, short-term changes in factors such as motor function and muscle strength. A larger study is now being planned, along with the development of more specialized software.
"We currently lack reliable measures of subtle MS disability progression over short time intervals," says Dr. Jennifer Graves, senior author of a paper on the study. "Developing tools that can capture MS progression reliably within six to 12 months instead of three to five years will drive faster drug development for the most disabling forms of MS."
The paper was published this week in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.