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New laser helps Parkinson’s patients

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, in Jacksonville, Florida, have developed a laser-based device that helps Parkinson’s patients walk again. It’s a highly laser light. The disease is known to slowly destroy the brain’s ability to control the muscles, depriving the of their mobility forcing them move around in a wheelchair. Neurologist Jay Van Gerpen, of the Mayo Clinic created a device that would help people walk again, the Voice of America reports. Van Gerpen calls his device ‘the mobilaser.’ A laser, attached to a walker or a cane, generates a beam of light, which provides a visual cue for patients with difficulty walking, because of a neurological disease or brain trauma.

“There is a part of the brain when you want to initiate walking in the prefrontal cortex in the basal ganglia, and if those areas get damaged then those signals don’t get to the primary motor cortex,” said Van Gerpen.

By watching the laser’s red line, the patient concentrates on a different task. That makes his brain send signals along a different path to the motor cortex, avoiding the damaged areas where those signals get jammed.

“We are capitalizing on the parts of the brain that are working quite well to help compensate for those that are not,” he said.

Van Gerpen said most of his patients improved their mobility.

Movement disorders neurologist, Dr. Bryan Klaussen with the Mayo Clinic also explained how the thing works, “It makes a line appear on the floor as they’re using their walker so they can see that and step toward it as they’re moving it’s really as simple as that.”

Klaussen said Mobilaser works because it adds a visual cue, a concept neurologists been teaching to those with Parkinson’s for years. Visual cues reroute the walking command through the brain. According to the researchers, movement we generate on our own, such as walking, goes through one stream of processing in the brain, through an area that is slowed by Parkinson’s, while movements linked to visual cues, like grabbing a cup or walking toward a line, take a different route, bypassing the trouble spot.
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