Speech Changes Could Be an Early Sign Of Onset Parkinson’s Disease, Study Shows

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Lithuanian researchers have indicated that speech changes are one of the early indicators of Parkinson’s. Although no known cure exists for Parkinson’s, early interventions may help control the neurological condition.

Scientists have developed an approach that could detect early Parkinson’s 

There are over 10 million people globally suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The main symptom is loss of motor function, and patients frequently experience muscle stiffness, hand tremors, and balance issues. Nevertheless, the new study found that the symptoms only appear once Parkinson’s disease has progressed to a more severe stage.

The Kaunas University of Technology researchers focused on vocal speech changes as the first sign of Parkinson’s onset. Previous research on motor function disorders has established that changed speech usually occurs before the onset of other symptoms.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was utilized in the study to examine Lithuanian speakers’ speech patterns. Subjects entered a silent room where a mic captured their speech for those with and without Parkinson’s. The algorithm “learned” to process signaling after hearing the speech.

The findings indicate that individuals with early-stage Parkinson’s frequently talk more softly, slowly, and fragmentarily. At first, the alteration could be imperceptible to the human ear. Yet, as the illness worsens, a patient’s speech grows increasingly impaired, with obvious stuttering, slurred word pronunciation, and a loss of breaks between sentences.

The researchers created a mechanism to identify the changes earlier, but they warn that it is still too early to use their approach to replace standard diagnostic procedures.

Algorithm to help create a future mobile application 

Kaunas University of Technology researcher Rytis Maskeliunas said this method is meant to encourage early detection of the condition and follow the treatment’s efficacy. However, it is not intended to replace a routine patient examination. The approach managed to distinguish healthy people from those with Parkinson’s using a speech sample 

Technological advancement may make the algorithm that detects speech changes more sensitive and refined. The researchers said the algorithm doesn’t need complicated hardware to be part of a mobile app. 

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