Victorian Treatment Re-tested

When patients said that travel helped to relieve the tremors of Parkinson’s disease, a 19th century French neurologist took action. Professor Charcot developed a jerking chair to mimic the movements of a long carriage or train journey. Many found the treatment successful, but Charcot died before fully investigating its benefits. Neurologists from the Rush University Medical Centre, US, tested a similar vibrating chair to see if it really did work. What did they find? The patients did indeed improve – but so did those sitting in the chair without vibration! Over the course of a month, both groups spent 30 minutes per day in the chair, listening to relaxing natural sounds. Each group reported similar, high levels of satisfaction with their treatment. This suggests that it is the sitting down and relaxing that is beneficial, rather than the movements associated with travel.

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