Cueing Technology for Parkinsons

Approximately 70% of people with Parkinson’s Disease experience problems with swallowing. The resulting build-up of saliva can cause drooling, which is often a source of embarrassment and puts the person at risk of choking or pneumonia if the saliva gets into the lungs. Therefore, it is important that people who suffer from drooling have a way to combat the problem.

Many therapies offered to tackle this issue work by decreasing saliva production, but this can result in problems relating to eating or oral hygiene. In addition, therapies such as Botox involve injections and can cause discomfort. One form of management that does not cause negative physical side effects is the use of a cueing device, which is worn on the body and reminds users to swallow their saliva by giving them cues at regular intervals, allowing them to manage the drooling behaviourally. However, this form of management is not widely used, and there are numerous issues with available devices, such as that the cues are noticeable to observers, that manually-operated devices are difficult to use, and that the designs are not aesthetically pleasing.

The aim of this project is to investigate the use of cueing to manage drooling in such a way that the cueing device itself is not embarrassing or uncomfortable for the wearer. We have developed a device through a participatory design process, ensuring that the design takes into account the needs and desires of people with Parkinson’s Disease so it is something they wish to use. This is an interdisciplinary project involving speech therapists, old age clinicians, interaction designers and hardware engineers.
Following feedback on the initial prototype, an improved version of the device is being trialled for one month by thirty NHS patients.

See also: Cueing for Swallowing


Funding: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) £37,018
Researchers: Nick Miller (PI) -Institute of Health and Society, Patrick Olivier (CI), Roisin McNaney, Stephen LindsayKarim Ladha,  Thomas Ploetz, Nils Hammerla, Dan Jackson
Collaborators: Richard Walker – Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust

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