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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid