Non-invasive Focal Mechanical Vibrations Delivered by Wearable Devices: An Open-Label Pilot Study in Childhood Ataxia

Front Neurol. 2018 Oct 9;9:849. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00849. eCollection 2018.


Non-invasive focal mechanical vibrations (NIFMV) now represent a strategy of increasing interest to improve motor control in different neurological diseases. Nanotechnology allowed the creation of wearable devices transforming thermal variations into mechanical energy with focal vibrations. This kind of wearable stimulators (WS) has produced encouraging preliminary results when used in the treatment of movement disorders and ataxia in adults. In this open label pilot study we first evaluated the feasibility, safety and effectiveness of NIFMV by WS in a cohort of 10 patients with childhood ataxia, a phenomenological category including different conditions still lacking of effective symptomatic therapies. Through the assessment of both clinical rating scales and spatio-temporal gait parameters via standardized gait analysis, we observed that a 4 weeks long treatment with WS Equistasi® was safe and provided significantly different effects in stride features of patients with slow/non-progressive cerebellar ataxia and Friedreich's Ataxia. Although limited by the sample size, the absence of a placebo-controlled group, the poor compliance of enrolled population to the original experimental design and the partial accuracy of outcome measures in pediatric subjects, we suggest that NIFMV by WS could support locomotion of patients with childhood slow/non-progressive cerebellar ataxia with preserved sensory system and no signs of peripheral neuropathy. Future studies are definitely necessary to confirm these preliminary results and define criteria for successful NIFMV-based treatment.

Keywords: Ataxia; equistasi; focal vibrations; neuromodulation; non-invasive stimulation.