Problems with walking and moving are among the earliest symptoms of Parkinson’s disease — a degenerative brain condition caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons. Assessing the impact of the disease on how patients walk is usually down to the watchful eye of the doctor, but now a cheap, effective and more objective computer-based approach has been developed. Patients dress simply in light-coloured clothing and are filmed walking past a dark background. The images are then computer-analysed. In a trial of the system, the computer accurately distinguished the silhouettes of healthy controls (top row), patients without treatment (middle row) and patients receiving treatment (bottom row), more than 80 per cent of the time. The new approach should increase accurate diagnosis, assessment of disease progression and evaluation of drug treatments.
Written by Ruth Williams
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