Parkinson’s ‘smartwatch’ can also assess bradykinesia in depression

Movement disorders

By Michael Woodhead

18 Aug 2020

A smartwatch-style wearable technology designed to measure bradykinesia in Parkinson’s disease can also be used to assess psychomotor retardation in depression, neurologists in NSW have shown.

Clinicians from the Department of Neurology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Sydney, have adapted the Parkinson’s KinetiGraph (PKG) to provide objective measurements of the immobility that is a feature in major depression.

The PKG was originally developed by Professor Malcolm Horne and Dr Rob Griffiths at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, as a wrist-worn device that is used continually for several days to monitor variables such tremor, bradykinesia and dyskinesia in people with Parkinson’s disease.

However in a pilot study, NSW clinicians showed that the PKG could also be used to objectively measure both bradykinesia and immobility in depressed inpatients, and also predict response to ECT.

The study involving 12 patients with major depression found that the majority (9/12) had PKG defined bradykinesia at baseline and seven of these improved with ECT.

All patients with bradykinesia who remitted clinically demonstrated improvements in bradykinesia scores.

Immobility as assessed by PKG was present at baseline in all but one of the 12 patients and improved in nine after they underwent ECT.

The study also showed there were significant correlations between clinically assessed melancholia and PKG measures (r = 0.701, p 0.011 at baseline to rs = 0.655, p 0.021 at end).

However there was no strong association seen between bradykinesia and immobility scores and depression severity.

The study authors said the findings confirmed previous reports of psychomotor retardation being correlated with the severity of depression and being a predictor of response to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

“The Parkinson’s KinetiGraph is a potentially useful wearable technology to objectively assess motor symptoms in depression,” they concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

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