A systematic review of digital technology to evaluate motor function and disease progression in motor neuron disease

J Neurol. 2022 Dec;269(12):6254-6268. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11312-7. Epub 2022 Aug 9.


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common subtype of motor neuron disease (MND). The current gold-standard measure of progression is the ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALS-FRS(R)), a clinician-administered questionnaire providing a composite score on physical functioning. Technology offers a potential alternative for assessing motor progression in both a clinical and research capacity that is more sensitive to detecting smaller changes in function. We reviewed studies evaluating the utility and suitability of these devices to evaluate motor function and disease progression in people with MND (pwMND). We systematically searched Google Scholar, PubMed and EMBASE applying no language or date restrictions. We extracted information on devices used and additional assessments undertaken. Twenty studies, involving 1275 (median 28 and ranging 6-584) pwMND, were included. Sensor type included accelerometers (n = 9), activity monitors (n = 4), smartphone apps (n = 4), gait (n = 3), kinetic sensors (n = 3), electrical impedance myography (n = 1) and dynamometers (n = 2). Seventeen (85%) of studies used the ALS-FRS(R) to evaluate concurrent validity. Participant feedback on device utility was generally positive, where evaluated in 25% of studies. All studies showed initial feasibility, warranting larger longitudinal studies to compare device sensitivity and validity beyond ALS-FRS(R). Risk of bias in the included studies was high, with a large amount of information to determine study quality unclear. Measurement of motor pathology and progression using technology is an emerging, and promising, area of MND research. Further well-powered longitudinal validation studies are needed.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Clinical trials; Devices; Motor neuron disease; Sensors.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / diagnosis
  • Digital Technology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Motor Neuron Disease* / diagnosis