A Virtual Coach Spurs Patients With Parkinson's

Ann Lukits Wall Street Journal - People with Parkinson's disease walked markedly farther and faster after a month of daily motivational chats with a virtual exercise coach, according to a study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. Virtual coaches are animated computer characters that simulate face-to-face conversations with people. The technology has been used in studies of healthy adults, but this is the first to involve patients with a neurological disorder, researchers said. Walking is an important indicator of both disability and quality of life in people with Parkinson's, they said. Twenty Boston residents in their mid-60s with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease were recruited. Participants took daily walks wearing a pedometer and spent five minutes a day talking to a virtual exercise coach called Tanya. The conversations took place on a tablet computer, varied daily and consisted of a social chat, check of the subject's progress and daily exercise tip. Subjects took two walking tests before and after the study, which assessed distance covered in six minutes and gait speed, respectively. Average walking distance on the six-minute test improved from 1,508 feet to 1,588 feet over the 30-day study period. Normal gait speed improved from 3.9 to 4.1 feet per second and maximum

8 feet per second. Virtual coaches.5 feet to 5. researchers said. All changes were statistically significant and clinically meaningful. and can help promote healthy behavioral changes in people with chronic illnesses. with their humanlike characteristics. . have a unique ability to build social and emotional relationships. Caveat: The study was a small Phase I clinical trial that didn't include a control group. researchers said.gait speed increased from 5.

A growing number of patients in the Tampa Bay area are finding the body and mind can benefit from another prescription ." he says. "making longer steps. the hospital chaplain’s been steadily deprived of dopamine – the chemical messenger between his brain and body.is only being done locally at Florida Hospital. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago. Muscles are cramping.called "loud and big" . Any exercise like this. Prior to the therapy I just went along with it and did the best I could.Parkinson’s disease will be diagnosed in another 60.” The exercise-based therapy Wright learned at Florida Hospital Tampa looks like a mix of marching band drills and tai chi balancing moves. “Everything is being tighter." he says. “After being exposed to this program. Movement is constrictive. She says the intense month-long program – and continuous workouts at home – retrain the dopamine-deprived brain. Stretch the arms…. Each one will learn that medication is critical in slowing down the incurable disorder. “It looks a little bit strange to others looking.three more…one and back.000 Americans this year. The moves are so theatrical it turns the heads of hospital patients undergoing their own therapy. “Keep it strong and big….one of exercise and physical therapy. and again. I am consciously. Wright’s physical therapist. two and back and last one…and three.Big step out. and again. "Everything is done a far more restrictive plane. "We try to explain this is really . But the treatment won’t end there. says this therapy . Patients and therapists face off." she says. So we actually do the walking with them so they aren’t alone. she says. constantly exaggerating my movements when I walk. He’s lost the ability to move and speak with ease. can help a Parkinson's patient. Good. high stepping marches and vocal warm ups. trying to lift my knees up higher. finish. mirroring each other’s swooping arm circles." Bruce Wright’s going through the motions again.” Margie Moore.

Great job. "They may feel they are loud enough or may sense they are. "um – kind of forces you out of your recliner so to speak. “Unfortunately Parkinson’s skews a person’s perception of appropriate loudness. I feel like when I am moving.. I absolutely feel better. Almost 14 seconds. Exercise revives lost empathy and compassion. “Consciously doing the exercises. I feel like I have more freedom in my movements. Truthfully.”Bryan says these exercises helps patients measure their own loudness. Wright’s voice hasn’t been as big a concern as his spirit.That was great. listeners aren’t hearing them well. He says that benefit is immeasurable. a diagnosis of profound apathy. Were you using more effort? Absolutely. There is a definite cause and effect to the days I do my exercises at home versus the days I don’t." he says. consciously and purposely doing those kinds of movements. says Wright. "I feel more active. “Ahhhhhh……. I am moving differently. I ran out of breath.” So far. She challenges Wright to see how long he can hold his strong baritone – bolstered by years of preaching and singing hymns. or in Wright’s case.important to try and retrain the brain. mind and spirit." he says. a fulltime chaplain at Florida Hospital and Bishop at Tampa’s Lifespring Community Church. but sometimes they do feel a little but strange doing the motions. “Bottom line is I feel better. Vocal therapist Cara Bryan says symptoms such as stuttering and weakened modulation can be improved with a little coaching. That’s something they can no longer do instinctively. He hopes others see how exercise can be a boost to the body." .” The same goes for a Parkinson’s patient’s speech. Wright says. About half of all Parkinson’s patients suffer from depression. How did that feel for you? Good. and play it safe.” Parkinson’s is a disease that makes you want to sit in a corner." Wright says.

that's what Wright plans to do . Mary Shedden is a reporter with the Tampa Tribune. .With each big step. and again.again. and again. You can read the print version of her story HERE.

During April. as I struggle to rise from my seat. His name is Parkinson and he will probably be with me until the end. "Nose over toes. as I really need to get this adversary off my stooped back. Parkinson's research is such a worthy cause. Awareness. . money and support are what I hear they need." and I see pity in her smile. "Nose over toes. Hicks "Nose over Toes." is how I try to start each day. I have a constant companion now." the therapist says. "Don't feel sorry for me. Remember. It takes a lot of effort. Perhaps the scientists can find a cure and knock him off the track." I say to the lawmakers who fight the budget wars. You see. "Nose over toes. "Nose over toes" is our daily choice." I say to the researchers as they struggle to succeed. "Nose over toes. Those of us with Parkinson's cannot go wrong. let us proclaim in one loud voice. "I was going to call. but I am determined I will not be beat." I want to say to a friend I hadn't seen for a while. If we remember exercise and positive attitudes help us to be strong."Nose Over Toes" By Irene D. she says." I think as I push my Rollator away. who is really not a friend.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful