A new pilot study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will investigate foot sensations and vibrating insoles to aid balance in people with multiple sclerosis.
“Because the nervous system is compromised in people with multiple sclerosis, they show a much greater delay in detecting and responding to unexpected balance disturbances,” study author, Stephanie Jones, PhD, a research assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the university, said in a press release. “One of our goals is to enhance ability to detect and respond to sudden challenge and improve balance.”
The study will include 30 individuals with and without multiple sclerosis (MS) between the ages of 21 and 65. Participants will be tested for baseline function, ambulation and ability to stand unassisted.
The researchers will apply tactors, small devices that produce vibration below the detection threshold, to the soles of each participant’s feet. The participants will then stand on a platform that will suddenly move about 3 inches and take blinded tests in five different postural conditions, including sitting and standing. The tests will be performed again after a short waiting period to see if there is carry-over effect of the vibration, according to the release.
“We hope tactors reduce that delay so that these muscles will fire sooner and the person would be less destabilized with them in place,” Jones said. “If we identify this mechanism of somatosensory impairment in MS, perhaps we can develop other interventions to try to do more.”
The researchers will continue to explore how sensation in the feet relates to function and whether tactors are efficient for aiding balance in patients with MS, according to the release. The tests are funded by a 1-year, $39,000 grant from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.