How Parkinson’s affects the voice

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Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 4:14 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Tremors, trouble walking, stiff and achy muscles--there are many unmistakable signs of Parkinson’s.

Now, researchers are looking at another symptom that could help diagnose the disease-- with a phone call.

"We are discovering new things about how Parkinson’s affects the voice," says Dr. Max Little MIT Media Lab Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Little says in lab settings his team's technology was able to detect the disease with 99-percent accuracy.

Just by listening to voice recordings. "So we can tell the severity of the symptoms as well, yea."

"We were interested in this question whether or not this technology could be deployed over the telephone."

The Parkinson’s voice initiative is collecting phoned-in voices from around the world and measuring 130 features, including breathiness, tremors, vocal pitch and tone. "Not all of them are that easy to hear and that's why you need precision algorithms in order to be able to pick these things out."

Little's goal. "To reduce the costs involved in doing for example mass-scale screening."

He says it could also help doctors optimize drug timing and dosage by evaluating patients' voice changes as their medications wear off throughout the day.

Detecting disease…just by dialing in.

So far more than 18 thousand people from around the world, those with and without Parkinson’s, have shared their voices for the research.

For more information click here.

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