Profs turn to crowd-funding for research

Bill Wang // GAZETTE

Western researchers are the closest they've ever been to a breakthrough for tremor suppression in Parkinson’s patients.

A team of Western University researchers have developed a wearable tremor suppression glove, which can determine the difference between voluntary and involuntary tremors and offer greater control and relief for Parkinson’s sufferers.

Electrical and computer engineering assistant professor, Ana Luisa Trejos, leads the Wearable Biomechatronics Laboratory group at Western. The group focuses on developing next generation mechatronic systems for the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal disorders.

In collaboration with different Western professors, such as Michael Naish and Mary Jenkins, the prospect of creating the glove was born.

“The idea is that if we can develop devices that are even less obtrusive and more like a skin-like device, we could move that to other parts of the body as well,” Trejos said.

The current model of the glove only targets tremors in the wrist, index finger and thumb.

While other devices for tremor compensation exist, this glove is able to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary movement, meaning it does not suppress all movement entirely like all other tremor-suppressing gloves currently do.

Examples of other devices include spoons that assist patients in eating independently, as well as devices that suppress movement in the elbow.

“Our studies have shown that if you stop the tremor at the elbow it will actually increase the tremor in the hand and in the fingers making it even more difficult to perform certain actions,” Trejos said.

While the glove is still in its development stages, Trejos hopes to search for commercial partners once some amendments are made. Trejos said the team wants to make the glove's controller smaller and improve its battery system.

This isn’t Western's first Parkinson’s disease breakthrough. In 2012, Western professor Mandar Jog partnered with Mike Katchabaw to create augmented immersion virtual reality to assist in the study of mobility. In 2017, Western University student, Anita Abevesekera received the Porridge for Parkinson’s 2017 Graduate Student Award for her research on Parkinson’s disease.

Trejos initiated Western's Wearable Biomechatronics Laboratory five years ago. For students who want to get involved, Trejos recruits undergraduates to assist in projects over the summer.

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