New app makes life easier for tremor patients

2019-10-09

Alexander Medvedev, professor at the Department of Information Technology.

Millions of patients with tremors, involuntary shaking, can look forward to a smoother measurement procedure and treatment. Uppsala University is the first in the world to offer an app that measures shaking while the patient uses their mobile phone as usual.

Alexander Medvedev got the idea for the app when he asked some students to look more closely at whether it was possible to use a mobile phone to measure shaking in patients with Parkinson's disease and essential tremor. On the whiteboard in the classroom, an idea took shape that proved to be feasible.

“The students took the idea further and developed their own sensor platform and an algorithm that could estimate the trajectory in which the mobile phone moves. And they did it in just two months! It was great fun,” says Alexander Medvedev, professor at the Department of Information Technology.

As soon as the patient uses the mobile phone in some way – to read email, send a text, or whatever – the movement is measured. The algorithm measures how the mobile phone moves and can calculate the difference, the amplitude, between the intended movement and the movement that is affected by tremors. The apps that exist today require that the patient regularly perform various exercises, like holding out their arms with the mobile phone, in order for measurement to take place. Most commonly, doctors and nurses perform the time-consuming measurements manually with the patient. In such case, no measurements can be documented and reused.

“There are patients who get so tired from the procedure that they just want to leave. Assessments can also vary depending on who performs them and which patient is being examined,” explained Alexander Medvedev.

With access to continuous, correct measurement data, the doctor can then treat with medicine and deep brain stimulation. In the latter case, the implanted pacemaker can send signals that affect the brain so that shaking decreases or even ceases.

The app is being developed in close collaboration with doctor and technophile Dag Nyholm, a neurologist at Uppsala University Hospital, and the newly established company Stardots. With former researcher Daniel Petrini at the helm, Stardots is looking to make products from innovative ideas from academia. The company has applied for and received money from Vinnova to develop the app, which is expected to be ready by the start of 2020. Alexander Medvedev has also applied for and received money through the University’s Verification for Collaboration initiative (abbreviated VFS in Swedish).

“It is valuable and gives me the opportunity to work with our partners to ensure the app is ready in time.”

Alexander Medvedev warmly recommends the model with close collaboration between academia, companies and end users.

“The University can contribute interesting ideas, but should not develop finished products. That should be left to the pros. At the same time, you can't develop a product and just hope it will be used. It is only natural for the end user to be a part of things right from the start. In this case, Uppsala University Hospital and the patients there tested the technology.”

The app will be free of charge and can also be used in sports, where e.g. shooting and dart-throwing require the athlete to have a steady grip.

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