Vibration Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: How it Works 

Jun 27, 2023

Research into Parkinson’s treatment continues to expand, with exciting breakthroughs happening every year. One notable treatment is a Parkinson’s vibration glove, which has shown promising results in initial trials.

Here’s an overview of current treatments for Parkinson’s disease, how the vibration glove works, and the future of vibration therapy for people with PD.

Current PD Treatments

Image of a brain showing current treatments for Parkinson's

Current treatments for Parkinson’s disease broadly fall into two categories: medication and DBS (deep brain stimulation). While both options are effective in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s symptoms, they can be expensive and have undesirable side effects. These may include nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, headache, and difficulty concentrating.

Researchers have sought a middle ground between these two treatments for many years, hoping to create an accessible and non-invasive alternative. Vibration therapy aims to fit this need.

History of Vibration Therapy

Vibration therapy for PD was first conceptualized in the 19th century, when neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot discovered that his subjects’ symptoms showed improvement following long, jostling carriage rides. This inspired Charcot to create a vibrating chair, which was successful in making short-term improvements to symptoms.

More recently, a series of studies have been conducted on the impacts of vibration therapy on PD symptoms. One study (Jogbes and colleagues) involved administering vibrations to single upper limb muscle groups in people with PD experiencing resting tremors. The study found that vibration therapy reduced tremor frequency.

Additionally, a 2009 study by L.K. King et al. discovered that sound vibrations applied to the whole body of participants with PD led to improvements in symptoms and motor control, including a decrease in rigidity and tremors.

While the original vibrating chair and following iterations seemed to alleviate symptoms of PD, the results have been largely inconclusive, with only a temporary effect. It wasn’t until 2018 that Dr. Peter Tass, MD, Ph.D., patented the vibration glove — a promising take on the vibration therapy methodology.

How the Vibration Glove Works

Waves of a vibration glove

Tass’s design uses a process coined as “coordinated reset stimulation.” Many PD symptoms result from groups of neurons that fire abnormally in unison. Using computer modeling, Tass’s team discovered they could reset these abnormal firings by providing a patterned stimulus with vibrations of 100-300 hertz (per second).

Tass also discovered that pauses between treatments are critical to the overall effectiveness of the treatment, something that earlier iterations of vibrational therapy did not adopt. This rest time allows the body to unlearn these abnormal patterns.

In 2014, Tass conducted a three-day study that applied this coordinated reset stimulation via deep brain electrodes. The study took place in two-hour sessions, twice a day, for three days. Researchers found that the therapy consistently improved motor symptoms across study participants.

The results of this study inspired Tass and his research team to design a less invasive option. They found they could accomplish a similar outcome with vibratory bursts to the fingertips. Fingertips have many sensory neurons that communicate directly with the brain’s sensory cortex, making this a valuable alternative.

The result is a lightweight glove that people with PD can wear even while performing daily activities. The glove attaches to a device that produces 250 hertz via small openings on the fingers.

Peter Tass Lab Studies and Results

Tass and his team conducted several studies with the vibrational glove over several years, publishing their initial findings in April 2021.

The studies involved eight people with Parkinson’s who received the vibrational glove therapy for three months or more. The team measured the results across four categories, assessing the impact to tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and balance.

These studies revealed that the vibrations improved motor symptoms, reduced Parkinson’s neuronal synchrony in the brain, and produced no side effects. While initial results are exciting and show promise, clinical trials across larger groups of people will be necessary to determine the true impact of the vibration glove therapy.

Future of Vibration Therapy

Woman sleeping with a rainbow glow on her pillow

As of this article, the Peter Tass Lab is in the preparatory stages of clinical trials, indicating that their work developing novel therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s is progressing rapidly.

Upcoming studies will target larger groups of people and introduce different variables to reach a more objective conclusion on the effectiveness of the vibration glove. The studies will involve modifying the vibration frequency, length of treatment, and number of treatments across participants.

Check back on our blog for updates on advances in Parkinson’s treatment research, and be sure to tune into our July 27th Let’s Talk Parkinson’s event on The Latest in Parkinson’s Research 2023 with Dr. Jeff Bronstein.

1 Comment

  1. Donna Pick

    I take tap dance. There is also taped music playing.
    I find the sound of the tapping to be comforting. I do not know if it lessens my tremors. (At this time I have mild Parkinson’s.)

    Reply

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