Voice analysis can spot Parkinson’s disease

By June 25, 2012Innovation

Parkinson's Voice InitiativeOr at least that’s the hope.

Dr Max Little and his team analysed time series voice recordings from fifty patients with Parkinson’s and identified differences in voice patterns which they hope can become the basis of a tool for preliminary diagnosis. This is a big deal because there is no blood test for Parkinson’s and current tests are expensive and time consuming.

They are now collecting voice samples for further research. You can leave one via a three minute call to UK 01865 521168 (numbers for other countries here). I just left mine and it was very easy, although having to say ‘aaaaaaah’ for as long as I could two times over got me some funny looks here in the office.

This whole project is brilliant. Firstly because it is an amazingly elegant solution to the problem of diagnosing Parkinson’s and secondly because the the next phase of research is so efficient. They are targeting 10,000 samples, which is a small number in today’s connected world, and I imagine they will get that and more very quickly and the cost will be limited to the telephony system.

Possibly more exciting is the notion that voice tests could help us to detect Parkinson’s in patients before it does irreversible damage, and that the method might extend to other neurological conditions.

I can see a world in the not too distant future where voice samples are regularly collected and screened as part of a generally available preventative health regime. The costs could be that low.

You can read more about this on the BBC and on the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative website.