The Parkinson Alliance

The Parkinson Alliance is using its 2020 distribution to fund:

PROJECT TITLE:  Vibrotactile Coordinated Reset as a Non-Invasive Therapy to Treat Parkinson’s Disease

Investigator/Author: Peter Tass

Objective: Parkinson's disease (PD) is often associated with motor symptoms such as stiffness, poor balance and trembling. Parkinson’s patients typically also suffer from impairments of sensory information processing, including a compromised sense of touch, as well as impairments of the integration of sensory information and motor commands, all of which are required for normal movement. Although pharmacological therapy and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) may provide fundamental relief for Parkinson’s patients, both therapy options may not be sufficiently effective and may cause side effects. DBS is also an invasive procedure and hence not without risk. We have developed an alternative, completely non-invasive treatment approach called vibrotacile Coordinated Reset (vCR) simulation. This procedure applies vibrotactile stimuli to the fingertips of patients through convenient gloves for a few hours regularly or occasionally. These stimuli help to remodel abnormal brain connections and may lead to long-lasting functional recovery. In a phase I study and two case series studies we have demonstrated that vCR therapy is safe and tolerable. These studies also showed that the therapeutic effects last over a long period of time, can accumulate with further use, and may also lead to a decrease in the amount of medication required. These studies helped us to improve vCR stimulus parameters and assess effect size required for a proof-of-concept study. An example video of a patient following vCR therapy may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMVC5IcNxIM.

Methods/Design: We will perform a 7-month double-blind placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study. A minimum of 30 PD patients will be included. Patients will be randomly placed into a real (n = 15) or sham (n = 15) vCR condition. Patients will receive a maximum of 4 hours of daily real vCR or sham vCR at home for 6-months. To measure long term effects, patients will receive no stimulation for 1 month after the 6-month follow-up appointment. Clinically established motor and quality of life assessments will be measured off medication at baseline, 3-months, 6-months, and after a 1-month pause in stimulation at 7-months. 

Relevance to Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease: We hope to establish a novel, non-invasive treatment option which provides significant acute and long-term relief of Parkinson’s symptoms by remodeling abnormal plasticity (brain connections) in Parkinson’s-related brain circuits in a sustained way by convenient vibrotacile fingertip stimulation.

Expected Outcome: We expect our research to rigorously establish that vCR therapy provides an effective non-invasive treatment which causes sustained relief for PD patients by improving gait and balance and reducing characteristic Parkinson’s symptoms, like tremor. This therapy may give hope to individuals who do not respond well to medication or are seeking a non-invasive therapy that can reduce reliance on medication. In addition, we expect our study to reveal optimal vCR dosage patterns.