Using Portable Transducers to Measure Tremor Severity
Background: Portable motion transducers, suitable for measuring tremor, are now available at a reasonable cost. The use of these transducers requires knowledge of their limitations and data analysis. The purpose of this review is to provide a practical overview and example software for using portable motion transducers in the quantification of tremor.
Methods: Medline was searched via PubMed.gov in December 2015 using the Boolean expression “tremor AND (accelerometer OR accelerometry OR gyroscope OR inertial measurement unit OR digitizing tablet OR transducer).” Abstracts of 419 papers dating back to 1964 were reviewed for relevant portable transducers and methods of tremor analysis, and 105 papers written in English were reviewed in detail.
Results: Accelerometers, gyroscopes, and digitizing tablets are used most commonly, but few are sold for the purpose of measuring tremor. Consequently, most software for tremor analysis is developed by the user. Wearable transducers are capable of recording tremor continuously, in the absence of a clinician. Tremor amplitude, frequency, and occurrence (percentage of time with tremor) can be computed. Tremor amplitude and occurrence correlate strongly with clinical ratings of tremor severity.
Discussion: Transducers provide measurements of tremor amplitude that are objective, precise, and valid, but the precision and accuracy of transducers are mitigated by natural variability in tremor amplitude. This variability is so great that the minimum detectable change in amplitude, exceeding random variability, is comparable for scales and transducers. Research is needed to determine the feasibility of detecting smaller change using averaged data from continuous long-term recordings with wearable transducers.