SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Around the globe, there are 10 million people who struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is one of the fastest growing neurodegenerative diseases in the world and attacks the central nervous system. This disease affects movement and often causes tremors.
About 80% of people suffering from Parkinson’s have or will experience what is called “Freezing of gait.”
“Freezing of gait is one of the most common and one of the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” said Sidney Collin.
“Freezing of gait” causes the individual to suddenly be unable to walk forward, feeling as though their feet are glued to the floor or stuck in a box of cement.
This symptom is defined as a sudden onset of immobility and because this freezing can happen without warning it is a leading cause of falls.
Collin is the CEO and co-founder of De Oro Devices. The company is tackling the issue of “freezing of gait” with the creation of a device called NexStride.
What prompted the creation of NexStride?
Collin said she has been obsessed with how the brain works which prompted her to pursue a biomedical engineering degree at Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California, and ended up working for a brain-computer interface company in France.
“I met this local veteran named Jack,” said Collin. “He lived with Parkinson’s disease and he suffered from this mobility symptom called ‘freezing of gait’. It stopped him from being able to walk, go to the bathroom by himself, or being able to go on a walk with his wife Sandy.”
This mobility symptom was the reason he was currently in a wheelchair. After meeting with Jack, Collins realized she could use her degree to help him. She developed the first prototype of NexStride three months later.
Here’s a video of Jack experiencing “freezing of gait”.
Here’s a video of Jack using NexStride for the first time.
How does NexStride work?
NexStride is a small black box that can be easily mounted on a cane, walker or walking poles. The device sends out a green laser line that runs perpendicular to the person walking forward. NexStride also comes with a built-in metronome with adjustable pace and volume. The combination of the visual cue of the green line and the auditory cue of the steady beat has the effect of re-establishing communication pathways between the brain and the body when a freezing episode occurs.
“We use these external visual and auditory cues and you imagine yourself stepping over that green laser line or stepping to the beat of the metronome and that change of intention and adding that goal orientated movement changes the part of the brain that is being activated and it allows someone to restore mobility,” said Collin.
Collin said these visual and auditory cues have proven to decrease the duration of “freezing of gait” by 69% and have reduced falls by 40%. Even though this is not a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, Collin said this is a way to give some control back to those suffering from the disease.
“Parkinson’s is a complex disease,” said Collin. “There are a lot of different factors that go into this. I’m just hoping we can create the tools to make their lives even just a little bit better.”
Collins has always wanted to help people and the desire to help people was what pushed her to study biomedical engineering.
“Realizing I could make things that actually have an impact on people’s lives and that can help them, that’s what drives me every day,” said Collin.
Collin and her team are focused on creating solutions to help people who are currently struggling with complex diseases.
NexStride is available to purchase online with a retail price of $499. NexStride has partnered with the Parkinson’s Wellness Fund, which offers grants to people with Parkinson’s Disease.