Why is your research important and how will it influence the understanding and treatment of MS?
Loss of physical function because of impairment of walking and balance impacts severely on the quality of life of people with MS. Because the aim of treatment in MS is to keep patients free from relapses and disease progression it is essential for clinicians to be able to measure subtle changes in physical function that may indicate neural deterioration. Our research has shown that current clinical measures are not sufficiently sensitive to detect subtle changes in walking and balance. In the proposed study we will use a set of lightweight, body-worn inertial sensors to measure walking and balance performance at the time that people with MS attend their clinic appointments. The main results can be provided immediately to the neurologist and will provide additional and more informative methods of monitoring the effectiveness of existing treatments, which would also be immediately applicable in the clinical environment. We will also investigate other measures derived from the sensors which may provide a convenient summary of overall movement performance. Using more sensitive tests will mean that any deterioration of physical function will be picked up early and a person’s treatment regimen can then be altered to prevent or slow down further disease progression.