Voice analysis could enable early detection of Parkinson's disease

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Washington, Apr 20 (ANI): Researchers at the University of Haifa have developed a new technique that could help in the early detection of Parkinson's disease.

Developed by Prof. Shimon Sapir, the technique involves analysis of voice and articulation.

"This is a non-invasive, reliable and accurate technique that only requires the patient to read out a few simple sentences," explained Sapir.

Parkinson's is diagnosed when some 60 percent of the nerve cells in the area of the brain that controls motor activity are already damaged, which compromises the effectiveness of therapy and rehabilitation.

Sapir said that the muscles controlling voice and speech are also affected by the disease in most patients, and there is some evidence suggesting that speech abnormalities may antecede the classic symptoms of the disease.

He added that theoretically, an acoustic analysis of voice is sensitive enough to help detect subtle abnormalities in speech that are present in the early stages of the disease but are not perceptible to listeners.

"Statistically speaking, the existing acoustic tests did not pick up significant differences between speech articulation of individuals with early PD and the speech of healthy individuals, even when such differences were sometimes already noticeable to the listener," Sapir pointed out.

He suggested that "this failure to detect acoustic differences has to do with the relatively large differences between speakers' speech signals, which is mainly due to anatomical differences between speakers".

The method developed by Sapir minimizes the effects of speaker variability and maximizes the sensitivity of the acoustic analysis to true differences between the speech of individuals with PD and that of healthy speakers.

Sapir and his colleagues tested the utility of the acoustic analysis method.

The results showed that the analysis system was sensitive to changes that occurred in those patients who had undergone therapy for speech.

The researchers indicated that the method not only enables early diagnosis of PD but also makes it possible to track changes in PD patients that may occur in response to treatment or as the disease progresses.

The results have been published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. (ANI)

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