In Düsseldorf, Rachel Spooner aims to objectively characterize motor symptoms such as tremor or movement slowing in patients with Parkinson’s disease. While patients often receive highly-effective therapies to reduce motor symptoms, the optimal therapeutic effects may not be long-lasting, which may restrict the patient’s quality of life despite these therapeutic measures.
This is partly due to the wide range of symptoms observed in Parkinson’s patients, with no two individuals experiencing the same combination of motor limitations. „However, the discrepancy in therapeutic outcomes may also result from the fact that symptom severity is traditionally assessed subjectively,“ explains Rachel Spooner. „Therefore, more objective criteria for characterizing motor symptoms may aid our evaluation of more effective treatment strategies.“ Thus, wearable sensors will be used to objectively record movements from the whole body. These data will then be used to identify quantitative markers of movement limitations such as slowed body movements, resting tremor, and walking disruptions.
To better understand the influence of Parkinsonian therapies, brain signals will be recorded during deep brain stimulation, a therapy often successful in reducing Parkinson’s-related motor symptoms. These measurements will be used to find brain signals relevant to the healthy and pathological movements quantified from the whole body. Thus, the research project may provide insight for improving the efficacy of deep brain stimulation therapies in Parkinson's patients. Ultimately, this research should make it possible to develop an individually optimized therapy based on the patient‘s motor symptoms and related brain signals, which could substantially improve the patients' quality of life.
With the Humboldt Research Fellowships for Postdocs, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables highly qualified scientists from abroad, who are at the beginning of their scientific career and have completed their PhD less than four years ago, to spend a longer research stay (6-24 months) in Germany. The research project is carried out in cooperation with academic hosts at research institutions in Germany. Applicants choose their research topic and their host(s) in Germany themselves.