New device may help those with tremors eat and drink

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A new item from Lift Labs could allow people with tremors to eat independently.
A new item from Lift Labs could allow people with tremors to eat independently.

A handheld electronic device may allow patients to overcome shaky hands caused by essential tremor, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Health System.

San Francisco-based Lift Labs tested the product, which looks like an extra-large electronic toothbrush base, on 15 adults with moderate tremors. The concept involved is called Active Cancellation of Tremor (ACT). This means the device adjusts to the shaking of the person's hand in a way that shakes the spoon in the opposite way. 

The UMHS Movement Disorders Center offers care for people with tremors, which can include everyone from those who have had brain surgery to those with Parkinson's. Lift Labs CEO Anupam Pathak, Ph.D., says the biggest problem for people with tremors is the embarrassment.

“It can lead to social isolation and is a big detriment to quality of life,” he told
McKnight's. Only around half of people respond to medication to treat tremor, and surgery is seen as a “last resort.”

The price of a base unit is $295, although Lift Labs recently wrapped up a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for people in need who would benefit from the device. They raised enough to distribute 150 of them and are working with the International Essential Tremor Foundation to make sure the devices reach the right people. 

There are three pilot studies in long-term care facilities in California, and feedback has been positive, Pathak said.

“One person wrote me recently to say that it decreased time in eating the meal and, even more importantly, made a big difference in allowing increased dignity,” Pathak said. 

The lab is developing other attachments for the Liftware device, with plans to soon release a fork and deep soup spoon. Most of the attachments will cost around $20.  

Study results appeared in Movement Disorders.