Project cost: £8,450

Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is a degenerative illness which has a devastating effect on the body, and usually results in death within a few years from diagnosis. MND causes profound weakness that often affects the arms and legs but it may also affect the tongue. This causes problems with speaking and swallowing food. Assessment of tongue involvement is important as there are few conditions which cause both limb and tongue weakness. When tongue involvement is seen, doctors can be more confident in diagnosing MND.

brian neuron image

Unfortunately, assessment of tongue involvement is difficult with standard electrical tests that are used on arms and legs. If a new means of assessing the tongue could be devised then the time to diagnosis may be quicker, meaning more support can be put in place for the patient. In addition, having a measurement that could be easily repeated would help doctors know if new treatments were working.

There is a great deal of experience in measuring the electrical properties of the body here in Sheffield. In fact, the field was invented by a Sheffield medical physicist! Testing the body in this way is quick and painless as the patient feels nothing. The researchers require funding to develop a device that can be used in the diagnosis of MND and in monitoring its progression. The money will be used to design and build the equipment and to test it on a small number of volunteers and patients.

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