BACKGROUND: An IBM researcher has invented an affordable adapter to minimize the impact of hand tremors for people whose hands shake because of conditions like Parkinson's disease.
HOW IT WORKS: The adapter is about the size of a handheld calculator. It plugs in between the mouse and the computer. Inside the device is a microprocessor, which takes the motion data normally transferred to the computer from the mouse and "filters" it, using an algorithm that takes out any unnecessarily jerky or repetitious movements. In the end, only the steady part of the motion data is transferred to the computer.
CAUSES OF TREMORS: Stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, a head injury, anxiety disorders, drug withdrawal, alcohol or caffeine overdose.
ABOUT PARKINSON'S DISEASE: Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressive condition that results from a deficiency of dopamine, one of many chemical messengers in the brain that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. When nerve cells that produce dopamine are destroyed, there isn't enough of the chemical and the brain's communication channels are disrupted. An area of the brain called the basal ganglia is one of the richest sources of dopamine, and the first to be affected by a shortage. It contains nerve cells that control a person's voluntary movement. That's why tremor is one of the most common symptoms of the disease.
WHERE TO GET IT: The mouse filter will soon be available on the Web for about $100. It will be offered by a small British electronics firm, Montrose Secam: http://www.montrosesecam.com. No additional software is required to use the Assistive Mouse Adapter.