October 24, 2021

Professor makes lives better for those with Parkinson’s Disease

Kindra Bell, of Ithaca, uses the QuadMill as researcher and SUNY Cortland associate professor of communication sciences and disorders Irena Vincent looks on.

Photo provided by SUNY Cortland

Kindra Bell, of Ithaca, uses the QuadMill as researcher and SUNY Cortland associate professor of communication sciences and disorders Irena Vincent looks on.

About 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year, and SUNY Cortland professor Jeffrey Bauer is spearheading a research project to help all those affected through the use of a QuadMill.

The QuadMill is an elliptical-like machine, originally designed for high-intensity, low-impact training for Olympic skiers.

The person stands still on the machine as it moves up and down, over and over, according to Bauer, a professor in the kinesiology department. It bends the person at their knees and ankles, helping to build strength in large muscles of the lower body.

Five years ago, Bauer’s 85-year-old father was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s Disease. Ever since, he said he was interested in studying it and investigating what goes on in the body of those diagnosed.

Bauer discovered there are a multitude of studies already being done on the disease and decided he would like to conduct his own research.

Bauer put together a research committee at the school with Irena Vincent, an associate professor of communication sciences and disorders at SUNY Cortland, and a group of volunteer students. Together, they enacted a plan of action to study speech, physicality and the psychology of patients through the use of the QuadMill.

But the machine is not easy to come by. Bauer said fortunately for him, he had connections to a skiing team in Lake Placid that had one and were no longer using it. They donated the machine for his research.

And Bauer said he saw a positive reaction to the QuadMill before his research even officially started.

“My dad really liked it,” he said.

His father, George, had been having difficulty walking and pedaling a bike, due to the disease, but after one session on the QuadMill he was walking better for a few days, Bauer said.

“I ran him at the lower setting and he enjoyed it,” Bauer said “He felt good the next day and that was after one session, which takes about five minutes.”

Being the first time he and his committee would be doing the research, Bauer began looking to test only people with early onset Parkinson’s Disease — 21 to 50 years old. By going through the Michael J. Fox Foundation he found two people from Ithaca willing to volunteer.

Bryan Roberts, an associate dean of the school of communications at Ithaca College, was one of them. Now 36, Roberts said he was diagnosed with the disease at 30 years old. But is still active, playing baseball and running.

To him, the project was interesting and a good way to help further research into the disease, he said. He has also been quite impressed with the QuadMill.

“It is a beast. It’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It challenges you and gives you an intense burn right away.”

Roberts has one more session with Bauer’s pilot program, which began in May and he has gone two days every week since.

“I appreciate them wanting to help people,” Roberts said. “I think they are on to something.”

Bauer hopes so. At the moment, the extra equipment needed for the studies is being borrowed and will have to be returned. And the research cannot be done without the equipment. Bauer said there is a program through the Michael J. Fox Foundation which would help pay for that equipment, but he first has to complete his study and gather all the data to send to the organization.

If he can get that funding, Bauer said he wants to work with diagnosed people of all ages, and hopefully work with a lot of them. He plans to begin his expanded research his fall.

Ultimately, Bauer said if the results from the QuadMill show it is making significant improvements, he would like to see them used everywhere. In malls, in gyms and available for home use. Like the blood pressure monitors in drug stores, he said he would like QuadMills to be easily accessible, so people with the disease can use it quickly and continue their day comfortably.

“Really I would like to see it not be needed at all,” he said. “Hopefully the work will benefit people and maybe get them off of drugs they may need to take. I want to try to provide hope and make lives better for people.”