NEUROSCIENCE

The spoon stabilizer was tested at U-M.

Mealtime made easier

Microelectronics in spoon handle cancel movement from essential tremor

issue 21 | Spring-Summer 2014

Patients with essential tremor and other conditions that cause involuntary hand motions often find eating to be a frustrating ordeal — enough to keep them from sharing meals with others.

Now, a new U-M clinical study of a device designed by a U-M engineering graduate gives such patients a new option. The battery-powered base of the device contains microelectronics that sense and move in the opposite direction of hand tremors in real time, keeping a detachable spoon relatively still.

In a clinical trial involving 15 adults with moderate essential tremor, the device improved their ability to hold a spoon still enough to eat, and to scoop up mock food and bring it to their mouths.

The researchers measured the effect via a standard tremor rating, subjective patient ratings and digital readings, and published results in Movement Disorders. U-M neurologist and essential tremor specialist Kelvin Chou, M.D., led the study, which tested the Liftware product made by a startup company called Lift Labs.

UMHS offers comprehensive care for essential tremor as part of its Movement Disorders Center, including a range of medications to calm tremors, and deep brain stimulation. But, says Chou, "Only about 70 percent of patients respond to medication, and only about 10 percent qualify for surgery, which has a high and lasting success rate." The new device may help many patients with residual tremor.