Watches that detect Parkinson’s disease

The results of the study appeared in the journal ‘Nature’. It is a technological alternative to face this disease. How do the watches that detect Parkinson’s disease work?

What does the research say? Holding down cell phone keys when typing or changes in sleep pattern may be the key. It would help detect Parkinson’s in people who begin to suffer the first symptoms. The study began in 2006 and was carried out by the UK Biobank. It is an institution that functions as a large-scale biomedical database. It has detailed genetic and health information on half a million participants from the UK.

How do the clocks that detect Parkinson's work?
How do watches that detect Parkinson’s work?

The key, the accelerometer

For this research, more than 103,000 people residing on the European island participated. All of them over 40 years old. They had been studied for a decade. They were given smartwatches from 2016 to record their behaviors for a week.

Researcher Cynthia Sandor, head of the UK Dementia Research Institute, explained. The device “in a single week of captured data can predict events. Up to seven years in advance. We could develop a valuable tool for early detection of Parkinson’s disease,” she said.

“Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative movement disorder. It is characterized by a slow progression of the disease,” Sandor explains. “Affected people experience motor symptoms. Slowness of movement, stiffness, coordination difficulties and tremors.”

These signs appear before the disease and long before diagnosis. They can often be overlooked. The key to watches that detect Parkinson’s lies in one of its components, the accelerometer. It is a sensor that records the acceleration and onset of each movement.

This disease could be detected up to seven years earlier.
This disease could be detected up to seven years earlier.

Getting ahead of the disease

The researchers turned to artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the participants’ mobility data. What did they identify among people who had the disease diagnosis? They observed a decline in mobility between 7:00 am and 00:00 am. This regardless of whether they had stopped moving or not.

The medium-term plan is to design a platform that collects data from people who wear smart watches. They could determine in advance who might develop Parkinson’s disease. And thus start as soon as possible the experimental treatment to stop its progression.

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