Scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have designed a wearable electronic device that uses electric noise to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The new treatment is similar to TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) therapy, which uses electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves to help manage pain. This device uses a different current profile that stimulates the vesibular organs—the human body’s balance system.
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by reduced levels of the hormone dopamine in the brain. Typical symptoms include an impaired sense of balance, tremors, poor mobility, slowness, and stiffness. Patients are usually treated with levodopa, a drug that stimulates the production of dopamine. However, the drug isn’t always enough for advanced Parkinson’s disease, and it becomes less effective over time.
The Sahlgrenska Academy team’s previous experiments on rats have shown that noisy electric stimulation of the vesibular organs can be used reduce the effects of dopamine shortage on the brain, improving the animals’ motor skills and balance. They have now tested the method on ten patients and found that electric noise stimulation improved Parkinson’s symptoms. The researchers suggest that electric noise stimulation could also be used to treat other conditions with poor balance. Next, the device will be tested in a long-term study where patients use it at home. The developers plan to have the device available to the public within five years.