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Smartwatches may be able to detect Parkinson’s

a person wearing a smartwatch

As well as dating, playing games, easy access to social media and making calls it’s been suggested smartphones may be able to detect early signs of Parkinsons disease.

A study conducted by the UK Dementia Research Institute team from Cardiff University analysed data from 103,712 smartphone users tracking their movement over a single week period between 2013 and 2016.

From the results professionals were able to identify out of the watch wearers who would be at high risk developing Parkinson’s.

It’s still early days, a number of similar studies need to be put in place across the world before experts can confirm smartphones can predict accurate results.

In most cases the disease is diagnosed at a late stage when there has been too much damage to the brain for it to be restored.

But as study leader Dr Cynthia Sandor points out, with 30% of the population being smartwatch wearers there’s a good chance they will be able to identify Parkinson’s earlier by monitoring early symptoms such as involuntary shaking or tremors, slow movement and stiffness in the muscles.

"We have shown here that a single week of data captured can predict events up to seven years in the future," Sandor said.

"With these results, we could develop a valuable screening tool to aid in the early detection of Parkinson's.

"This has implications both for research, in improving recruitment into clinical trials, and in clinical practice, in allowing patients to access treatments at an earlier stage, in future, when such treatments become available."

Dr Kathryn Peall said the study, which used data from the UK Biobank, gave a good indication early signs of Parkinson’s can be picked up by several actions which affect movement, such as frailty or old age.

"We compared our model across a number of different disorders, including other types of neurodegenerative disorders, individuals with osteoarthritis, and other movement disorders, amongst others, an advantage of being able to work with a dataset such as the UK Biobank," Peall told BBC News.

"The results from individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease were distinct."

But she stressed it "will always remain an individual and personal choice".

Peall added: "Where this work is potentially important to the field is that we ultimately hope that new therapies that allow us to slow disease progression will become available,"

[ For advice and support on Parkinson’s visit the Parkinson’s UK website ]

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