Smartwatches Can Help Identify Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease Tech News

Smartwatches can help identify symptoms of Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before they appear, a study has found.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 103,000 people who wore medical-grade wearable devices for seven days, continuously measuring their movement speed.

Slow movement is the hallmark symptom of the disease, along with tremors and stiffness.

Dr Catherine Peel, from Cardiff University’s Institute of Mental Health Innovation, said her team looked at whether movement speed data from smartwatches could be used as a potential early warning sign of the disorder.

The study, which ran from 2013 to 2016, compared data from people who already had the disease with those who had been diagnosed seven years after the smartwatch data was collected.

The researchers could distinguish those who went on to develop Parkinson’s disease from those who were healthy.

Not only that, but they show that AI can be used to identify who in the general population will develop the disease later in life, and predict when.

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“Major Leap”

Study leader Dr Cynthia Sandel, of Cardiff University’s Dementia Research UK, said the findings could improve research and clinical practice “by allowing patients to access treatment at an earlier stage”.

Most current patients have lost most of the affected brain cells by the time of diagnosis.

“While more work is needed before it can be put into clinical practice, our findings mark a major leap forward in the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and suggest that devices such as activity trackers and smart watches can play a key role in clinical monitoring, ’ added Dr Sandel.

The UK Parkinson’s charity estimates around 145,000 people are living with the disease, with 18,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

The smartwatch research was funded by Dementia Research UK, the Welsh Government and Cardiff University.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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