L-dopa is commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, L-dopa can also produce two undesirable characteristics. First, the expected results from the medication are not consistent throughout the day. Second, continued use may cause increased uncontrollable movement and the patient to exert even more energy to try to correct their movement. It is not unusual for the patient to experience significant weight-loss.
The exaggerated, uncontrolled movement is called dyskinesia. What is unusual about Parkinson’s disease patients, with severe dyskinesia, is that often they walk up stairs or step over objects with little effort. Yet, when faced with an open area, that first step can be particularly difficult. Thomas Riess, himself a Parkinson’s sufferer, tested a variety of approaches to create an artificial visual field.
Riess’ testing led him to develop a lightweight pair of sun goggles with an LED light array mounted vertically in the peripheral area. The LED light sequentially enables a more natural gait. It is suspected that the more natural gait is the result of a coupling of the brain’s visual and motor control.
Testing continues at Reiss’ California based company, HMD Therapeutics.