Spark

Lasers on shoes help people with Parkinson's walk

Lasers attached to shoes create visual cues to help the mobility of people with Parkinson's disease.

Lasers attached to shoes create visual cues to help the mobility of people with Parkinson's disease

Path Finder uses laser to help people with Parkinson's overcome freezing of gait. (Walk With Path)
Listen11:02

Designer and biologist Lise Pape is helping people with Parkinson's walk by putting lasers on their shoes.

For people with Parkinson's disease, a common symptom is something called "freezing of gait," which is a temporary inability to step forward. 

Lise Pape is the founder of Path Finder. (Gianluca De Girolamo)

One of the dangers of freezing of gait is that it can lead to falls. "The person wants to go someplace, but suddenly the feet don't follow. So the body is in motion but suddenly your feet aren't walking with you," Pape told Spark host Nora Young. "People describe as if suddenly feeling glued to the floor and simply unable to take another step. And it's very distressing both for them and for the person next to them."

Pape's invention, called Path Finder, uses a laser strapped to a pair of shoes to project a perpendicular line on the floor in front of the wearer. The laser line gives them a kind of target to step over and begin moving forward again.

People with Parkinson's often have difficulty walking on flat surfaces, but find they are able to walk on staircases. While freezing of gait is not very well understood, research has shown that visual cues, like steps, can help. Pape created Path Finder after noticing her father, who has Parkinson's, was only able to move forward when she put her foot out in front of him. The line created by Path Finder acts like a step, providing a visual cue that allowing them to focus their movement. 

Path Finder has connections with Parkinson's associations in France and England to help connect with patients who could benefit from their device, and have been working with associations in the United States and Canada as well.


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