Case study

Movement and balance in long covid

York researchers are monitoring the effects of long covid on movement, balance and gait as part of a wider programme designed to increase understanding of the condition.

The issue

The coronavirus passes quickly for most but for some it leaves long-term side effects. Patients experiencing what is known as long covid can suffer from a range of neurological, cognitive and musculoskeletal symptoms for weeks or months after the initial illness. 

At the start of the pandemic, there was a perception that covid was short-lived. However, it has become evident that it can lead to longer term problems, with one in seven people continuing to experience symptoms for at least four additional weeks and often longer (C-19 COVID Symptom Study, Oxford University). There is an urgent need to understand the symptoms of long covid to improve future treatment and patient support.

The research

York researchers are part of an international project creating a bank of data and biological samples from coronavirus patients to contribute to knowledge of the disease. 

Our experts in electronic engineering are assessing movement, balance and gait in up to 1,200 patients who have recovered from the Covid-19 viral infection. To test balance, patients are asked to stand still or walk on the spot with their eyes closed and perform various cognitive tasks. For the gait assessment, the patient is asked to walk back and forth on a five-metre walkway at their own self-selected speeds of ‘slow,’ ‘normal’ and ‘fast.’  

Patient movement is captured, analysed and classified using technology developed in York’s Laboratory for Intelligent Virtual Environments (LIVE), in collaboration with University of York spin-out company, Asuuta Ltd. The lab specialises in research and development of medical technologies for virtual reality (VR) rehabilitation and machine-learning diagnostics in an effort to determine biomarkers of movement-impairing disorders, such as arthritis, complex pain and long covid.

The results will contribute to research studies and form part of the Covid-19 Registry and Repository programme at Florida Atlantic University Medical School led by Dr Ximena Levy.

Although we have a vaccine, we're only just beginning to explore the after-effects of Covid-19. Using a range of advanced sensor technologies and machine learning algorithms, we aim to understand and find treatments for long covid with the hope of minimising its effects on people’s everyday lives.

Dr Adar Pelah
School of Physics, Engineering and Technology
Featured researcher
Adar Pelah

Adar Pelah

Dr Pelah’s areas of expertise include biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning, medical diagnostics and rehabilitation technology, human vision and locomotion, virtual reality and motion capture, and stereo displays (3D).

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Research and Innovation Development Team