Apple Watch can monitor Parkinson’s symptoms

This was demonstrated in a study conducted by Apple with Stony Brook University published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study, the abstract of which you can read here, describes how researchers were able to identify characteristic ‘on’ and ‘off’ patterns for medication effects by monitoring tremors at rest and other involuntary movements.

This type of longitudinal and remote monitoring of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease (PD) could enable more accurate treatment decisions.

Researchers have developed the Motor fluctuations Monitor for Parkinson’s Disease (MM4PD), an outpatient monitoring system that uses the Apple Watch’s inertial sensors to continuously track fluctuations in resting tremor and dyskinesia.

Tremor at rest, which can affect hands, legs and other parts of the body, is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Dyskinesia, another type of involuntary movement, is a frequent side effect of drugs used to treat the disease.

Researchers designed and validated the MM4PD with 343 Parkinson’s patients through a longitudinal study of up to 6 months in a cohort of 225 subjects. MM4PD measurements were correlated with clinical ratings of tremor severity (ρ = 0.80) and matched expert ratings of the presence of dyskinesia (P < 0.001). The MM4PD captured changes in symptoms in response to treatment that matched clinician expectations in 94% of the evaluated subjects. In the remaining 6% of cases, symptom data from the MM4PD identified opportunities to improve the pharmacological strategy.

The study authors report that the measurements allowed them to detect symptoms not detected by traditional treatment methods, identifying changes after subjects underwent deep brain stimulation surgery. The study authors point out that the tool helps to identify people who do not adhere to medication administration, as well as people who might benefit from changes in the treatment regimen.

Apple has been interested in Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. A patent filed in 2019 describes how it is possible to employ sensors to monitor movement in various ways, analysing the results directly on the device using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), the most widely used rating scale in assessing the prognosis of Parkinson’s disease.

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