Potential good news for Parkinson's sufferers

Michel Joullié wearing the WalkMe device to help with his Parkinson's

French company has invented the WalkMe device to assist with mobility

A new invention by a start-up company in Montpellier hopes to dramatically improve the mobility problems people with Parkinson’s suffer daily.

Around 1.2 million people in the European Union have the condition and April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, which aims to raise awareness and highlight the way the disease can affect a person.

Impaired walking with slowed movements, shuffling steps, sudden freezing and difficulties turning are some of the consequences and the young Montpellier company, Resilient Innovation, has come up with an invention which seems to help the body overcome them.

Their WalkMe device consists of a small control box which can be attached to a belt around the waist, and a wire, which leads to a tiny speaker which is clipped in front of the ear.

It works by sending a rhythmic, low, audio signal which stimulates the brain to overcome hesitation in sending the necessary messages to the limbs, thereby enabling the person to continue walking.

The idea came from the fact that sounds do have a direct and measurable effect on human behaviour patterns - for example, soldiers marching to the beat of a drum or people tapping their feet unconsciously to the sound of music on the radio. The sound is unobtrusive because it is transmitted directly to the inner ear through the skull rather than through the ear.

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74 year-old Michel Joullié, from Portiragnes in the Hérault, was diagnosed with the disease 3½ years ago and says the WalkMe device has changed his life: “I can walk much better and it has helped me with my balance problems. The effect was so positive that as soon as I discovered it I immediately started a kind of crusade to help the young engineer who created it to improve his invention and to try to accelerate the possibilities of commercialisation of that device.

“The disease had hit me hard as I was a motor-bike enthusiast and I had to sell my Harleys and drive an automatic car. My wife cried when she saw the difference it made,” he said.

Mr Joullié with his wife Jacqueline

The company was founded in 2016 and so far has around 70 customers in the South of France.  Tristram Congreve, who helps French companies export to the UK, has taken the device to the charity Parkinson’s UK and says he had a very warm welcome and hopes to sign a deal with them soon. He is also applying to present the product on Dragon’s Den.

The 27 year-old founder of the company, Jordan Miron, makes no medical claims for his product. He is an IT engineer and says he took the best of technology and applied it to the best of medical research to create something useful. His product is made by a company where the majority of employees are disabled.

WalkMe does not come cheap at €2,000 but money will be reimbursed if people are not satisfied. The company is also looking into payment plans.

For more information on the WalkMe, please contact Mr Congreve on 06 72 12 93 29 or visit resilient-innovation.com/en

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