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Big Data, Emerging Tech Takes On Parkinson’s Research

Big data analytics is about to make a big difference in the lives of people living with Parkinson’s Disease and the physicians who treat them.

From the general practitioner who first suspects a patient has Parkinson’s Disease (PD) to movement disorder specialists and health psychologists, a variety of healthcare providers are often involved with diagnosing, treating and researching PD.

Supplementing subjective measures with real-time data acquired through wearable devices could lead to more efficiently detecting meaningful change in symptoms—and indicate whether or not an intervention is actually improving symptoms or slowing the course of disease. Data gathered from wearable computing can change the way PD is diagnosed and treated while improving patients' lives by addressing their most pressing concerns as they live with the illness.

Millions of patients live with varied symptoms and clinical exams are often limited to what a patient remembers to tell their doctor about their daily experiences or what they might have found time to record in an illness journal.

A new partnership between Michael J. Fox Foundation and Intel will test emerging technologies that can objectively and accurately track patients’ experience of Parkinson’s all day, every day. The initiative uses wearable devices to capture measurable data on features of the illness, such as slowness of movement, gait and tremor disturbances.

This and other data will be analyzed to provide deeper insights into the realities of living with PD and the nature of disease progression. Earlier this year MJFF and Intel launched a study to evaluate the utility of three different devices. They also assessed ease of use for the patient, the type of data collected, and how that data adds to the knowledge base for PD.

Participants with and without PD wore the devices at home over four days and during two clinic visits. A cloud-based platform gathered and stored de-identified data from study participants. Engineers have recently begun analysis on that data.

In addition, qualified researchers will be able to access the de-identified data for use with their own research initiatives. There also will be opportunities to upload de-identified data from other studies for inclusion in population-scale research.

Questions that could potentially be answered through these initiatives include timing of medication, disease progression, effects of new drugs or other therapies, and patient adaptation to living with PD.

Clinical trials testing wearable devices to track PD are ongoing. The next phase of research is recruiting for this fall in New York, Boston and Tel Aviv. Practitioners are encouraged to share this information with their patients.

Those interested in participating in a clinical trial can crate a profile on the Fox Trial Finder website. The database allows for anonymous correspondence with trial coordinators and generates a custom list of clinical trials that a candidate might qualify for.

Information for researchers:

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