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IBM Tests mHealth Sensor That Measures Grip Strength in Fingernails

IBM researchers are testing an mHealth sensor that attaches to the fingernail and measures grip strength. It could someday help providers remotely monitoring patients with Parkinson's and other chronic health concerns.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- IBM researchers are working on an mHealth sensor that can continuously measure grip strength in a user’s hand.

The wearable digital health device measures the flexibility of and deformation in a user’s fingernail, a key determinant of grip strength. Combined with AI technology, the connected health platform could someday be used to help detect and monitor patients with a wide range of chronic health issues.

“Identifying grip types, activation profile, and maximum grip force can provide clinical features relevant to diagnosing degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease,” the researchers noted in a study recently published in Nature. “Hand strength has been correlated with general health-related quality of life. Other studies showed that greater hand strength was positively related to cardiac function, central nervous system health, and cognitive performance among people with schizophrenia.”

Because the sensor platform measures “fingernail deformation forces,” the researchers noted, such an mHealth tool could prove more accurate in measuring and tracking than wrist-borne devices, which focus more on hand movement than grip strength.

They also noted the sensor is small enough to be worn on a finger, doesn’t interfere with tactile sensing or haptic perception and is durable enough to function while the user is throwing a baseball – giving rise to the idea that the device might someday be used to identify motions that cause sports injuries, such as arm trouble for pitchers.

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