The conversations of life

‘Smart’ clothes that can stop falls in people with Parkinson’s disease? Yes, they’re real


A team of researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW is looking to test ‘Smart Socks’ after receiving a grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and the Shake It Up Australia Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Around 80,000 Australians have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and falls are alarmingly common, often caused by gait problems, unsteady posture and freezing-of-gait where the feet ‘forget’ to walk.

Led by NeuRA’s Dr Matthew Brodie and Associate Professor Kim Delbaere, the program will give participants a mat with colour-coded stepping targets, a pair of Sensoria Smart Socks, an iPad and phone.

Participants step on coloured stepping targets that match a series of colours displayed on their iPad. At the same time, they listen to rhythmic auditory cues like music and a metronome beat that are synchronised with the vibrating Socks.

It’s designed to help rewire the parts of the brain that control walking and improve participants’ walking ability.

With people with Parkinson’s five times more likely to be living in residential aged care than the rest of the population, it could help people stay living independently at home longer – a great initiative.

NeuRA’s Associate Professor Kim Delbaere and Dr Matthew Brodie.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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