Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shaky hand, stable spoon: Device helps essential tremor patients

Date:
February 28, 2014
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
For people whose hands shake uncontrollably due to a medical condition, just eating can be a frustrating and embarrassing ordeal -- enough to keep them from sharing a meal with others. But a small new study suggests that a new handheld electronic device can help such patients overcome the hand shakes caused by essential tremor.

This device, developed by Lift Labs, contains microelectronics in the base that allow it to cancel out the effects of hand tremors suffered by essential tremor patients.
Credit: Lift Labs

For people whose hands shake uncontrollably due to a medical condition, just eating can be a frustrating and embarrassing ordeal -- enough to keep them from sharing a meal with others.

But a small new study conducted at the University of Michigan Health System suggests that a new handheld electronic device can help such patients overcome the hand shakes caused by essential tremor, the most common movement disorder.

In a clinical trial involving 15 adults with moderate essential tremor, the device improved patients' ability to hold a spoon still enough to eat with it, and to use it to scoop up mock food and bring it to their mouths.

The researchers measured the effect three ways: using a standard tremor rating, the patients' own ratings, and digital readings of the spoon's movement.

The results are published online in the journal Movement Disorders by a research team that includes U-M neurologist and essential tremor specialist Kelvin Chou, M.D., as well as three people from the small startup company, Lift Labs, that makes the device, called Liftware. The study was funded by a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health that the researchers applied for together.

Public-private partnership -- with a Michigan difference

The technology came full circle to its test in the UMHS clinic. The company's CEO, Anupam Pathak, Ph.D., received his doctorate from the U-M College of Engineering -- where he first worked on tremor-cancelling advanced microelectronic technologies for other purposes.

The concept is called ACT, or active cancellation of tremor. It relies on tiny electronic devices that work together to sense movement in different directions in real time, and then make a quick and precise counter-motion.

Lift Labs, based in San Francisco, developed the device, which resembles an extra-large electronic toothbrush base. It can adjust rapidly to the shaking of the user's hand, keeping a detachable spoon or other utensil steady. In other words, it shakes the spoon in exactly the opposite way that the person's hand shakes.

But to truly test whether their prototype device could help essential tremor patients overcome their condition's effects, the Lift Labs team turned to Chou, who with his colleagues sees hundreds of essential tremor patients a year.

UMHS offers comprehensive care for the condition as part of its Movement Disorders Center. Chou and his colleagues have experience in prescribing a range of medication to calm tremors, and evaluating which patients might benefit from advanced brain surgery to implant a device that can calm the uncontrollable nerve impulses that cause tremor.

"Only about 70 percent of patients respond to medication, and only about 10 percent qualify for surgery, which has a high and lasting success rate," says Chou, who is an associate professor in the U-M Medical School's departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery. "People get really frustrated by tremor, and experience embarrassment that often leads to social isolation because they're always feeling conscious not just eating but even drinking from a cup or glass."

The trial, Chou says, showed that the amplitude of movement due to the tremor decreased measurably, and that patients could move the spoon much more normally. Though the trial did not include patients with hand tremors caused by other movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, the device may be useful to such patients too, he notes.

Says Pathak, "A key aspect of Liftware is a design with empathy. We hear of people struggling every day, and decided to apply technology in a way to directly help. We hope the final product is something people can feel proud of using, and allow them to regain independence and dignity."

How the study was done The researchers tested the device's impact both with the microelectronics turned on, and with them turned off so there was no correction for movement. Patients and Chou could not tell by feeling the device whether it was on or off.

All three measures -- objective rating by Chou, subjective rating by patients, and digital data from the device's connection to a computer -- showed improvement for eating and transferring items when the device was turned on, compared to when it was off.

When the patients were asked to simply hold the spoon halfway between the table and their mouth, the two objective measures showed improvement when the device was on, though the patients didn't report a significant difference themselves.

"Our data show this device has very good potential to assist those who have tremor and aren't candidates for surgery," he says. "Compared with other devices designed to limit tremor by weighting or constraining limbs, this approach allows movement and is easier to use."

The study included 15 adults between the ages of 59 and 80 whose tremor caused them to spill food or drink. They had experienced tremor for anywhere from 5 years to 57 years. All of the patients stopped taking their medication temporarily before testing the Liftware device. Five of the patients had undergone deep brain stimulation, but turned off their tremor-controlling implant for the study.

Lift Labs is now developing other attachments for the Liftware device, and working with the International Essential Tremor Foundation to raise money to give devices to people with essential tremor who cannot afford the $295 price of a base unit.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anupam Pathak, John A. Redmond, Michael Allen, Kelvin L. Chou. A noninvasive handheld assistive device to accommodate essential tremor: A pilot study. Movement Disorders, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/mds.25796

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Shaky hand, stable spoon: Device helps essential tremor patients." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140228121128.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2014, February 28). Shaky hand, stable spoon: Device helps essential tremor patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140228121128.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Shaky hand, stable spoon: Device helps essential tremor patients." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140228121128.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Calling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a potential threat to global security, President Barack Obama is ordering 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the stricken region amid worries that the outbreak is spiraling out of control. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Nearly $1.0 billion dollars is needed to fight the Ebola outbreak raging in west Africa, the United Nations say, warning that 20,000 could be infected by year end. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is ordering U.S. military personnel to West Africa to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which is he calls a potential threat to global security. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins