Scientists at Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania are developing a new method to facilitate the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s from speech. Speech disorders are known as one of the characteristic symptoms of the disease and the strategy could contribute to the early initiation of treatment.
The characteristic signs of the disease, such as muscle stiffness, tremors and balance problems, usually appear after 80% of the nerve cells in the brain have been lost. Speech difficulties can occur even in the early stages of the disease, with a lower pitch of voice, slower and more fragmented speech and less expression, the researchers explain.
Currently, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is made by the patient’s clinical history and neurological examination. There is no specific test to diagnose it or a way to prevent the neurodegenerative disease.
In the Lithuanian study, researchers used artificial intelligence to study speech samples from 104 people, including 61 Parkinson’s patients and 43 healthy volunteers. Each recorded their voice in an acoustic chamber and an algorithm was used to process the recordings and analyze the differences.
“We are not creating a substitute for routine patient screening. Our method is designed to facilitate early diagnosis of the disease and monitor the effectiveness of the treatment,” says professor and data scientist Rytis Maskeliūnas. He believes that technological advances will facilitate image analysis.
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Parkinson’s is a neurological disease characterized by the progressive degeneration of the neurons responsible for producing dopamine.KATERYNA KON/SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images
This degenerative process of nerve cells can affect different parts of the brain and consequently cause symptoms such as involuntary tremors, loss of motor coordination and muscle stiffness.Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images
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Other symptoms of the disease are slowness, muscle twitching, involuntary movements and postural instability.izusek/Getty Images
In advanced cases, the disease also blocks the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates memory, learning and sleep.SimpleImages/ Getty Images
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), although the disease is known to affect the elderly, approximately 10% to 15% of diagnosed patients are under the age of 50.Ilya Ginzburg/EyeEm/Getty Images
It is not known for sure what causes Parkinson’s disease, but when it occurs in young people, it is usually genetic. In this case, symptoms progress more slowly, and there is greater cognitive preservation and life expectancy.Visoot Uthairam/Getty Images
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The diagnosis is medical and requires a series of tests, such as: brain tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. For patients without symptoms, a CT scan is recommended to check the amount of dopamine in the brainJohnnyGreig/Getty Images
Parkinson’s disease has no cure, but treatment can slow the progression of symptoms and help quality of life. In addition to medication, monitoring by a multidisciplinary team is essential. In some cases, brain surgery is possible.Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images
Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that affects the patient’s movements. It occurs due to the degeneration of cells located in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. These cells produce dopamine, which is responsible for channeling nerve currents throughout the body.
A decrease or lack of dopamine affects motor function, as well as the function of the vocal cords, diaphragm, and lungs.
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