Smart watches could help track Parkinson’s disease progression – study

Wearable devices, like smartwatches, could help scientists to better understand Parkinson’s disease and speed up the approval of new treatments, research suggests.

In the new study, an Apple Watch paired with an iPhone was able to detect changes in Parkinson’s symptoms over time in people in the early stages of the disease.

Researchers suggest smart watches and smart phones can passively monitor many of the symptoms of the disease, such as gait and tremor.

Additional information can be collected through tasks such as finger tapping and voice recording to measure speech-related symptoms.

Lead author of the study Jamie Adams, an associate professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, USA, said: “Digital measures hold the promise to provide objective, sensitive, real-world measures of disease progression in Parkinson’s disease.

“This study shows that data generated by smart watches and smart phones can remotely monitor and detect changes in multiple domains of the disease. These digital assessments could help evaluate the efficacy of future therapies.”

She added: “This study brings us closer to having meaningful digital measures for future use in Parkinson’s clinical trials, which may speed up therapeutic development and get treatments to our patients faster.”

In the new study, called WATCH-PD, the researchers followed people with early-stage Parkinson’s for 12 months.

Patients with early Parkinson’s experienced significant declines in measures of gait, an increase in tremor, and modest changes in speech, data collected by the devices showed.

The smart watch was able to pick up on decreases in arm swing, a common feature of the disease, and activity in the form of the number of daily steps.

The findings are published in the npj Parkinson’s Disease journal.