Parkinson’s disease affects more than 10 million people around the world, with tens of thousands of people being diagnosed every year. One of the primary symptoms of this progressive disease is tremor, which appears when the hands are at rest. Over 80% of Parkinson’s patients experience tremor.
Tremor is embarrassing and can be troublesome for patients. It restrains them from performing daily life tasks like writing, dressing, and eating.
In the last couple of years, efforts have been made to develop devices to counteract the effects of tremor. One such a device is Emma watch. It helps the patients to regain the power of writing and drawing. The watch produces a vibration that disrupts a feedback loop mechanism between the brain and the hand that activates tremor.
What is it?
Emma watch is a wrist-worn device that helps Parkinson’s patient to overcome the effects of tremors in hands.
The device is named after Emma Lawton, a young graphic designer, and creative director. She is one of that 2 % of patients who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a very young age. After diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29, Emma was afraid of losing her job because of continue tremors in her hands. She was not able to draw and even couldn’t write her name properly. This inspired her friend Haiyan Zhang to design a device that could help her to write and draw normally.
Haiyan Zhang is the innovation director at Microsoft Research. Together with her team, she managed to design a device in the form of a wristwatch that helped Emma to write again.
The early model of the product was unveiled at the Microsoft Build 2017 conference. The device is in the prototype stage and is being tested on other patients of Parkinson’s disease.
Who can use it?
Emma watch is primarily designed for people with Parkinson’s disease. It helps them to reduce their tremors and perform daily tasks more effectively. The device may also benefit those suffering from essential tremor. However, there is no evidence of testing it on people with essential tremor at the moment.
How does it work?
The precise mechanism by which the Emma watch alleviates the tremor effects is not fully understood. It is considered that it works by creating a vibration cue that distracts the brain from creating the tremor.
The inside of the watch is packed with small vibrating motors. These motors produce vibration in a certain pattern which disrupts the pathway between the brain and the hand that triggers the tremor.
It makes the patient forget about the tremor, even though the tremor is there but no longer felt by the patient.
When Emma used it for the first time, she realized that her hand was still shaking but she couldn’t feel the effects.
Haiyan’s team at the Microsoft research is working with neurologists to explore the neurological pathways activated in the brain that caused the watch to reduce the tremor.
Although Emma watch doesn’t cure the tremor, it can be an evolutionary aid for reducing tremor. This will allows Parkinson’s patients to regain their ability to perform their daily tasks.
Project Emma is now working to imply the same technology to develop devices that could prevent other symptoms of diseases like the slowness of movement, stiffness, and problem with gait.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.