Yeah, I know, it’s only rock n roll, but I like it. Music may not move everyone, but Portland, Maine-based MedRhythms‘ digital therapeutic uses music with sensors and software to help people with neurologic injuries and diseases walk better. MedRhythms and Cambridge, Massachusetts-located Biogen recently announced a license agreement to collaborate in developing a prescription digital therapeutic with music to improve gait issues for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Biogen develops innovative therapies for neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and MS.

MedRhythms uses a proprietary algorithm to stimulate neural circuitry. According to the company website, MedRhythms based the algorithm on 30,000 hours of input from physical therapists. The algorithm controls closed loop gait training. Inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors clipped to a patient’s shoes transmit gait data to a smartphone app. The app interprets the gait data and adjusts music that also plays on the smartphone. The patient hears the music via attached wired earbuds.

MedRhythms doesn’t just play random tunes or patient requests. The company developed an exclusive method to select music for gait improvement. Songs make the cut if they have high therapeutic potential. The algorithm adjusts the music based on the gait data and the trained experience of the captured physical therapy hours. The primary intervention at work is Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation. The short version is that the music activates action in a neurologic process called entrainment that uses external rhythmic content to couple the patient’s auditory and motor systems.

MedRhythm’s digital therapeutic process also supports brain healing. As patients log more time with MedRhythm’s system, neuroplasticity can potentially re-wire the brain’s neurological connections to improve gait and walking in general.

So MedRhythm’s digital therapeutic employs Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation, entrainment, neuroplasticity, and global activation. Global activation refers to music’s ability to affect the entire brain. In its work with Biogen, MedRhythms will develop the above principles and techniques specifically to improve gait deficits in patients with MS. The digital therapeutic version for this collaboration is MR-004, which isn’t a name that one would associate with helping people get up and dance, but if it helps MS patients improve their walking, that’s a huge win. We’re looking forward to hearing more about MR-004 and about the Biogen and MedRhythms collaboration.

“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”
From The Mourning Bride, a poem by William Congreve, 1697