How People Type On Computer Keyboards May Help Manage Parkinson's Symptoms

First Posted: Oct 14, 2016 03:42 AM EDT

There are about 60,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the United States every year. Just recently, it was revealed that doing ordinary things like typing emails or changing your Facebook status may help treat the dreaded Parkinson's disease. Scientists have created a new monitoring strategy to assess Parkinson's symptoms as patient's interact using a computer keyboard at home.

In a report by Indian Express, it stated that even though there is still no cure for Parkinson's disease, treatments have already been discovered and found that it can reduce the severity of a patient's symptoms. However, these treatments should need doctor's constant monitoring of the patient's symptoms at home. Researchers, including those at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, have recently developed a method to monitor the progression of Parkinson's disease as patients are made to interact using a computer keyboard. also reported that Luca Giancardo, a former Catalyst Fellow in the Madrid-MIT M+Vision Consortium in the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and one of the paper's lead authors, the technique, based on technology originally designed to replace computer passwords, will allow the monitoring of Parkinson's signs as patients do ordinary activities such as updating their Facebook status or typing emails. "This approach uses something we do normally, interacting with a digital device, so it does not add any additional burden or take time away from daily activities," he says.

These methods are based on trained medical personnel checking the patient's ability to do a number of activities that require movements, reported However, these methods have a tendency to be done in a clinical setting which limits how often they can be done. Researchers conducted a study about keystroke dynamics which is a technique used to identify a computer user by the time they consume to press down and release each key usually about 100 milliseconds, could be used to monitor the effects of Parkinson's disease at home.

For the study, research enlisted 42 patients with early stage of Parkinson's disease and 43 healthy individuals to type out a text of their own choice for 10 to 15 minutes on a computer keyboard. The computer was installed with software designed to check the time every time they press and release. After checking the typing data, researchers found a compelling difference in the timing of each press and release in those with an early stage of Parkinson's disease, while the healthy participants had a more uniform time.

"By looking at the variation of this press and release, we were able to find a signature that allows us to detect Parkinson's disease in our cohort," said Giancardo. Researchers also said that the software can be installed on a regular computer, added to the hardware of a device, or deployed on a webpage. They also said: "Monitoring patients' signs as they go about their daily activities could help doctors determine the most effective dosage of medication to prescribe at that time, and could ultimately help researchers to develop treatments to halt the disease."

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