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Weill Cornell Medical School Teams with MediGait to Get the Elderly, Sufferers of Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis “Back on their Feet”

Haifa, Israel (PRWEB) May 06, 2013

The numbers are shocking: one in three adults over the age of 65 will fall and hurt themselves this year. According to the CDC, “falls are the leading cause of injury death among the elderly. They are also the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.”

What’s the strain on our medical system? In 2010, the elderly made over 2.3 million fall-related visits to emergency rooms. In total, the cost of accidental falls tops $30 billion per year.

But there’s another, often hidden cost to these traumatic accidents: the fear and anxiety that many elderly experience after a fall. Often, they’re so terrified of standing and walking that they never recover; they’re just too nervous to participate in their own rehab. Many elderly reduce their connections with family and friends and stop working and participating in recreational activities. Ironically, the fear of falling again is the main factor increasing their immobility and increasing their risk of a future fall.

The medical system is great at replacing hips, setting bones, and stabilizing patients after a fall. What we’ve been missing is a systematic, evidence-based approach to get the elderly back on their feet after a fall: some way to reduce their severe anxiety and give them confidence to resume a full and active life.

A team of researchers from Cornell Medical School and MediGait have collaborated to create the first program to tackle the problem of severe anxiety resulting from falls. The program attacks the anxiety on two levels:

At the cognitive level, psychology researchers from Weill Cornell Medical School developed a 30-day intervention program - “Back on My Feet” - an exposure-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) protocol. This program deals with thoughts and feelings to address the core symptoms of avoidance, anxiety, and debilitating fear.

At the same time, it’s important to help seniors improve their walking balance. After all, a fear of something that’s already happened happening again is perfectly rational. So the Cornell researchers teamed up with MediGait to provide program participants with a home training tool, the GaitAid.

The GaitAid is a virtual reality device that superimposes a dynamic checkerboard pattern over the user’s field of vision and provides instant feedback for balance and effective movement.

The GaitAid has been especially helpful for:

  •      Parkinson's disease patients suffering from balance problems and freezing of gait - a condition where patients feel they are glued to the ground and cannot move. One out of three Parkinson’s disease patients describe this as the most debilitating symptom.
  •      Multiple Sclerosis patients with unbalanced ataxic (uncontrolled) gait.
Patients reported significant improvement in walking balance and confidence levels when using the device for a few minutes a day. Over a two-week training period, these sessions produced a cumulative improvement. (link to research -

As part of this collaboration, MediGait will develop a new training device aimed at improving balance for seniors in general.

TCII (Technion Cornell Innovation Institute) joins these teams to develop and test a new protocol of treatment for seniors recovering from a fall.

The inventor of the GaitAid, Yoram Baram, is a Technion professor of computer science and Winnipeg Chair of biomedical engineering who worked with NASA on advanced helicopter navigation systems. One evening in 1993, he was relaxing in front of the television when he happened to see a program about Parkinson’s “freezing”: a condition in which the afflicted could not get their brains to communicate with their legs. Baram saw immediately that his work with helicopters was directly applicable to freezing and spent the next 15 years developing the GaitAid. During clinical research, Baram learned the device created for Parkinson’s disease is also helpful for Multiple Sclerosis, cerebral palsy, brain stroke and seniors with a gait impairment.

According to Baram, “Falls and fear of falling for the elderly is a big problem without a standard treatment approach. With the current state of health-care in the US, it is especially important to find efficient methods for prevention and rehabilitation.”

Visit for more information about GaitAid for Parkinson’s disease and Multiple sclerosis.

Read the full story at

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