Currently, there is no diagnostic test for Parkinson’s or an objective measurement of the progression of the disease. These missing pieces of the puzzle are crucial in making it easier to identify those with the disease and it will allow the effectiveness of new medicine to be accurately measured.
Now, imagine if these problems could be tackled and solved in one go. Imagine that the way to do this is through one simple telephone call? This is the exciting prospect currently being developed by Dr Max Little and his team (Parkinson’s Voice Initiative). Parkinson’s disease manifests as a disorder primarily of movement, including rigidity, stiffness and tremor. Evidence suggests that the majority of Parkinson’s sufferers develop rigidity, stiffness and tremor of the vocal cord, thereby effecting speech production. Dr Little has shown that severity and progression of the disease can be traced through the effect on the voice. This has huge potential!
The basis of the test is to record your voice saying “ahhhhhhh" and sophisticated computer analysis is able to differentiate between healthy individuals and Parkinson’s sufferers. In laboratory conditions with good quality recordings the test has an accuracy of 99%. Yes, 99%!
Currently, Dr Little and his team are testing their system on ordinary landlines and mobile networks and the results are pending. If the data shows a comparable accuracy and the confounding factors of taking recordings in the “real world” can be ironed out, this system could be used to test millions of people very cheaply. For example, it is possible that when people reach, say, 55 they could have their voice recorded over the phone to see if they are showing signs of the disease. Intervention could therefore be earlier to preserve motor function and improve quality of life. This could change the process of diagnosing and treating Parkinson’s forever.
If you want to know more or get involved see http://www.parkinsonsvoice.org/