Jan. 31 - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed a device that re-routes brain signals in Parkinsonism disorder patients, allowing them to regain mobility. For at least one patient in Florida, the device is having a life-changing impact. Ben Gruber has more.
With the help of a walker equipped with laser technology, Wayne Puckett can get around on his own, something he couldn't do 4 years ago. Puckett has a form of Parkinsonism, a neurological disorder that destroys the brain's ability to control motor skills. A former postal worker and father of five, Puckett remembers when the disorder took hold. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WAYNE PUCKETT, PARKINSON'S PATIENT, SAYING: "I feel like I lost being a man. You lose your job, your occupation and it wasn't from a financial standpoint, it was from a health standpoint. And it is a hard thing to take and you feel like less of a person. You know, your kids, you are not able to do as much and they see it." In 2010, Puckett met Dr. Jay Van Gerpen at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. At the time he was wheel-chair bound, but Dr. Van Gerpen told him he had a device that could get him back on his feet that same day. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WAYNE PUCKETT, PARKINSON'S PATIENT, SAYING: "I thought he was crazy. He told me that he has a little red line that was going to be able to make me walk. I was like ain't no way. And he said will you give this thing a try and I was like whatever. And he gave me this thing and I was like wow. And it worked." That little red line is generated by a laser attached to Wayne Pickett's walker. Dr. Van Gerpen says it helps unravel the neurological traffic jam in Puckett's brain caused by his disease, giving him control over his movements again. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JAY VAN GERPEN, NEUROLOGIST AT THE MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "There is a part of the brain when you want to initiate walking in the prefrontal cortex in the basal ganglia and if those areas get damaged than those signals don't get to the primary motor cortex. That is the part of the brain that actually controls voluntary muscle movement." Van Gerpen says the laser line acts a visual queue, that prompts Puckett's brain to bypass the signal jam and use another route to connect the prefrontal cortex to motor cortex. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JAY VAN GERPEN, NEUROLOGIST AT THE MAYO CLINIC, SAYING: "We are capitalising on the parts of the brain that are working quite well to help compensate for those that are not." Wayne Puckett says the laser beam has given him back his life. He says he feels more independent and looks forward to facing the future, one step at a time.