A device found in many houses could be a low-cost and effective means of evaluating the walking difficulties of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.

The Microsoft Kinect is a 3-D depth-sensing camera used in interactive video activities such as tennis and dancing. It can be connected to an Xbox gaming console or a Windows computer.

A team of researchers at McGill University in Canada tested whether the Kinect could detect differences in the gait of MS patients compared to healthier individuals.

McGill University researchers are using a gaming camera to detect the differences in gait of MS patients . McGill University researchers are using a gaming camera to detect the differences in gait of MS patients . The walking movement of MS patients is usually assessed by their doctors, and subjectivity can result in two different clinicians giving the same patient different evaluations. Using a camera to detect movement, combined with computer algorithms that quantify patients’ walking patterns, can reduce the potential for human error.

The researchers captured the movements of 10 MS patients and 10 members of an age-and-sex-matched control group using the Kinect device. The MS patients had previously been assessed for gait abnormalities using the traditional clinical method.

From the data, the team developed algorithms that quantified gait characteristics of MS patients and healthy people. The investigators found that gait characteristics measured with the Kinect camera and analyzed with the developed algorithms were reproducible when assessed in one visit and differed between MS patients and healthy individuals.

The gait characteristics of MS patients obtained by the algorithm also were correlated with clinical measures of gait. And the algorithms could mathematically define the characteristics of gait in MS patients at different severity levels, determining his/her level of gait abnormality.

“This tool may help the clinician provide a better diagnosis of gait pathology and may be used to observe if a prescribed medication has been effective on the gait of the patient or not,” researchers say. The tool could be useful to assess treatment effects of certain interventions, such as rehabilitation or medication, and to document MS disease progression as reflected by gait deterioration.

The next step is to conduct a study with a larger group of MS patients, including evaluation in a gait laboratory, using a newer version of the Kinect device that could improve accuracy.

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