Exercise data may track the “beginnings” of Parkinson’s disease

British scientists have found that the collection of exercise tracking data may be used as an early indicator to predict the future development of Parkinson’s disease, which may enable relatively low-cost and non-invasive large-scale population screening, but further research is needed. The study was recently published in Nature Medicine.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease with no known therapy that causes progressive loss of neurons associated with motor function. Neurological degeneration at the time of diagnosis usually lasts for many years, and 50%~70% of motor function-related neurons have been affected by that time. Early detection of individuals at risk of Parkinson’s disease may allow more participants to join clinical studies designing protective therapies for the disease.

Cynthia Sandor of Cardiff University and colleagues used the UK Biobank to collect data on 103,000 people aged 40~69 to simulate whether the data from the motion tracking device could be used to detect Parkinson’s disease patients before clinical diagnosis. They found that machine learning models trained using data from motion-tracking devices could better distinguish between clinically diagnosed and pre-diagnosed Parkinson’s disease compared to commonly used clinical markers, such as indicators from lifestyle, genetics, blood biochemistry, and patient-reported symptoms.

The researchers found that specific patterns associated with accelerated exercise and sleep quality were associated with future onset and/or existing diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease. Average daytime motor acceleration slows in the years leading up to Parkinson’s disease, and sleep disorders are more severe in people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease than other clinical conditions, such as other neurodegenerative diseases and movement disorders.

The findings suggest that exercise data may be a low-cost screening tool for identifying people at risk of Parkinson’s disease, early screening for signs of Parkinson’s disease-related pathological neurodegeneration, or useful for initiating neuroprotective therapies and/or conducting clinical trials targeting disease development. However, the researchers suggest that further studies in other populations are needed to replicate these results. (Source: Feng Weiwei, China Science News)

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