News / Science & Technology

New Laser Device Helps Parkinson's Patients Walk

New Laser Device Helps Parkinson's Patients Walki
X
February 01, 2014 12:32 AM
Parkinson’s disease slowly destroys the brain’s ability to control the muscles, depriving the patients of their mobility. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville, Florida, have developed a laser-based device that helps patients walk again. VOA’s George Putic has more.
New Laser Device Helps Parkinson's Patients Walk
George Putic
Parkinson’s disease slowly destroys the brain’s ability to control the muscles, depriving the patients of their mobility. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville, Florida, have developed a laser-based device that helps patients walk again.

Four years ago, Wayne Puckett could get around only in a wheelchair, because a form of Parkinson’s disease had damaged the connection between his brain and his leg muscles. “It is a hard thing to take and you feel like less of a person. You know, your kids, you are not able to do as much and they see it,” he said.

In 2010, neurologist Jay Van Gerpen, of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, told Puckett about a device that would help him walk again. At first, Puckett did not believe him.

“He told me that he has a little red line that was going to be able to make me walk. I was like, ain't no way,” said Puckett.

Van Gerpen calls his device ‘the mobilaser.’ A laser, attached to a walker, generates a beam of light, which provides a visual cue for patients with difficulty walking, because of a neurological disease or brain trauma.

“There is a part of the brain when you want to initiate walking in the prefrontal cortex in the basal ganglia, and if those areas get damaged then those signals don't get to the primary motor cortex,” said Van Gerpen.

By watching the laser’s red line, the patient concentrates on a different task. That makes his brain send signals along a different path to the motor cortex, avoiding the damaged areas where those signals get jammed.

“We are capitalizing on the parts of the brain that are working quite well to help compensate for those that are not,” he said.

Van Gerpen said most of his patients improved their mobility, and Wayne Puckett said the mobilaser helped him get back his life.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 15, 2014 8:59 AM
Does this work for TBI patients who can't walk?

by: toni chiara
February 14, 2014 1:00 PM
this is NOT new - a walker with a laser and a cane with a laser have been available for at least the past 5 years- the walker is known as the U-walker (available with or without the laser) AND the company has a cane with a laser. HOWEVER BOTH HAVE THE SAME ISSUE - THE PATIENT NEEDS TO LOOK AT THE LASER, WHICH CAUSES THEIR EYES TO BE LOOKING AT THE FLOOR INSTEAD OF LOOKING AHEAD - WHICH IS THE CORRECT POSTURE!!
In Response

by: Jonathan Miller from: Skokie IL
February 24, 2014 6:30 PM
Toni is right that we have been making laser walkers and canes for years - actually over ten years. Given the dramatic benefit of reducing Parkinson freezing and falls, looking down isn't as big of an issue. Please see the European Rescue study that concluded that looking down to use the laser walker is OK given the dramatic benefit to the patient in being able to walk safely. My beef with this article is that the Mayo Clinic is acting like they found something new, when we have been making this product for years.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More