Gaming camera could help evaluate walking difficulties of MS patients

Canadian researchers have suggested through a new study that a commonly used gaming device could be used to evaluate walking difficulties of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and thereby help in treatment of MS patients.

The study by researchers at McGill University suggests that the camera of Microsoft Kinect can be used to detect the differences in gait of MS patients compared to healthy individuals. As of now, the walking movement of MS patients is usually assessed by their doctors, and chances are that the subjective evaluations may distort results. This means that there is a strong possibility that two different clinicians may give the same patient different evaluations.

However, use of a camera that detects movement and computer algorithms that quantify the patients’ walking patterns can reduce potential for human error. Researchers at McGill and their collaborators captured the movement of 10 MS patients and 10 members of an age-and-sex-matched control group using Kinect. The MS patients had previously been assessed for gait abnormalities using the traditional clinician method.

Using the data, the team then developed computer algorithms that quantified gait characteristics of MS patients and healthy people. The investigators found that gait characteristics measured with the Kinect camera and analyzed with the developed algorithms were reproducible when assessed at one visit and were different between MS patients and the healthy individuals. Moreover, the gait characteristics of MS patients obtained by the algorithm were correlated with clinical measures of gait. In addition, the algorithms could mathematically define the characteristics of gait in MS patients at different severity levels, accurately determining his/her level of gait abnormality.

Researchers are of the opinion that Kinect or similar device may help the clinician provide a better diagnosis of gait pathology, and may be used to observe if a prescribed medication has been effective on the gait of the patient or not. Researchers are optimistic that their framework could most likely be used for other diseases causing gait abnormalities such as Parkinson’s.

According to the team, their tool could be useful for assessment of treatment such as rehabilitation or medication, and to document MS disease progression as reflected by gait deterioration.

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