NWPF

News ArchivesRead News

Speech test may help diagnose Parkinson's

Tuesday November 27, 2012

Using professional recording equipment and computer algorithms, researchers have had success detecting tiny changes in speech patterns that may point to the disease in its early stages.
Robin Erb

www.usa.today.com - - DETROIT -- Identifying Parkinson's disease one day might be as easy as a speech test -- a non-invasive, inexpensive tool that in early experiments has shown surprisingly accurate results, a Michigan State University researcher said Wednesday.

The key: Tiny changes in speech that occur early in Parkinson's development and can be detected by professional recording equipment and computer algorithms -- perhaps even before loved ones notice slurred or slow speech or other symptoms, said Rahul Shrivastav, professor and chairman of Michigan State University's Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders.

The method detected those with Parkinson's and those without nine out of 10 times.

Changes in speech patterns are noticeable in late-stage Parkinson's, Shrivastav said. But in early stages, "the changes are small … they are not necessary big enough to notice."

Parkinson's affects nerve cells that use the brain chemical dopamine to help control muscle movement. Over time, the dopamine levels fall and nerve cells no longer properly send messages, leading to loss of muscle function, tremors and even dementia, Shrivastav said.

That can affect speech because muscle movements in the jaw and tongue become slow and have a reduced range, he said.

Over several years, Shrivastav and colleagues at the University of Florida's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences tested 76 men and women ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s, half of whom had been diagnosed with Parkinson's.

They asked the participants to recite 10 sentences that covered different sounds, including: "The beer drinkers raised their mugs" and "The boat sailed along the coast."

Special software developed by the team then dissected the speech sentence by sentence and in pieces that were just 1/50th of a second long.

Using thousands of readings, the software this year correctly differentiated the speech between patients with Parkinson's and those without Parkinson's most of the time. It was so sensitive, in fact, that it could make a determination with just two seconds of speech.

"We anticipated good results, but getting two seconds and 90 percent -- that was a surprise," Shrivastav said.

Parkinson's is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly, and about 50,000 new cases are reported annually, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers have tried for years to understand the disease, but the cause and cure remain evasive, said Maureen Gartner, information and referral nurse for the Cincinnati-based Tri-State Parkinson's Wellness Chapter, a chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association that covers Michigan.

"We don't know where it starts, so any new twist that could help us diagnose it earlier would be great," she said.

Recent News

Aug 28 - Brain cells 'burn out' in Parkinson's disease
Aug 24 - Study Details Process Involved in Parkinson’s Disease
Aug 24 - Google Reveals Gigantic Ambitions To Fight Cancer, Diabetes, Parkinson's, Heart Problems
Aug 20 - Two proteins work together to help cells eliminate trash; Parkinson's may result
Aug 17 - Scientists visualize critical part of basal ganglia pathways
Aug 17 - VA benefits office seeks all vets exposed to Agent Orange
Aug 12 - New, rapid dementia screening tool rivals 'gold standard' clinical evaluations
Aug 11 - Strolling in Seaside, fighting Parkinson's
Aug 11 - Scientists probing molecular origins of Parkinson's disease highlight two proteins
Aug 11 - Could Chocolate Help To Ease Parkinson’s Disease?
Aug 10 - Take 2: Why Seattle should try to replicate Spokane’s 3-on-3 Hoopfest success
Aug 10 - Book Review: A voyage into Parkinson’s disease, led by patient and journalist
Aug 10 - Parkinson's could be slowed with existing drug
Aug 7 - Opinion: Why modern life is making dementia in your 40s more likely
Aug 6 - Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis: My Husband’s Frightening Symptom
Aug 3 - Software Turns Smartphones into Tools for Medical Research
Jul 31 - Innovative Technology Using Dragonflies Might Offer Insights Into Human Brain Function
Jul 27 - Low-dose lithium reduces side effects from most common treatment for Parkinson's disease
Jul 27 - Opinion: Parkinson's disease creating class of workers who fear for their jobs: PennLive letters
Jul 22 - Parkinson's: Diabetes drug may offer clue to treatment