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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Wilcox

Vibrating Glove to Ease Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Abnormal electrical activity in the brain is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease, however, a glove that delivers light vibration to the fingertips of patients may be able to reset these signals.

The idea of using vibrations to ease Parkinson’s symptoms has long been used by doctors since the 19th century when Jean-Martin Charcot noticed his patients’ symptoms improved after long bumpy carriage rides. He then made a vibrating chair that would temporarily reduce symptoms. Now Dr. Peter Tass at Stanford Medicine is following in his footsteps to create a much newer, and more effective, vibration therapy. Tass’ specialization is the self-organization of the body, which describes the ways that nerves form and interact with one another along genetically determined pathways.

The abnormal firings in Parkinson’s occur due to the large-scale misfiring of neurons in unison. Tass’ team determined that inducing vibrations at a rate of 100-300 hertz could counteract these misfires. An analogy is turning a computer off and then on again to fix the issues, except it is happening through a non-invasive vibrating glove.

The process was not always non-invasive. During development, Dr. Tass and his team used the stimulation method directly on neural tissue in animal models. After three consecutive days of stimulation therapy, there was a notable improvement in motor symptoms. However, brain surgery although advanced remains a substantially invasive process. But how do you provide vibrations to a large amount of the brain without opening it up? The answer: fingertip nerve endings. Our fingers contain a plethora of nerve endings that allow us to do dexterous tasks and feel extremely light stimulation. To process all this sensory input a large area of the brain needs to be dedicated purely to sensory detection in the hand. This attribute is what guided the Stanford team to make a glove. Not a glove for warmth, but rather an exoskeleton that lightly rests on the skin and buzzes at a rate that is “slightly stronger than a cat’s purr”.

The glove is now in clinical trials with a hesitant release date of summer 2023. For it to be translated to the public the glove must pass varying levels of testing with increasingly larger patient groups. So far, the glove has been shown to increase patients' motor performance and reduced adverse neuronal synchronization with no side effects. The glove may soon be a middle-ground option between medications and invasive surgery with little to no risk.

Sources

Foundation, T. M. J. F. (2022, December 14). Glove shows potential to ease parkinson's motor symptoms. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research | Parkinson's Disease. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://www.michaeljfox.org/news/glove-shows-potential-ease-parkinsons-motor-symptoms

MacCormick, H. A. (2022, November 11). Can a vibrating glove treatment relieve parkinson's symptoms? Stanford Medicine Magazine. Retrieved February 15, 2023, from https://stanmed.stanford.edu/vibrating-glove-reorganize-neurons-parkinsons/



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Jeff G
Jeff G
Oct 03, 2023

Thanks for spreading the word on this Natalie. Has there been any updates (summer 2023)?

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