Speech analysis pinpoints Parkinson’s disease

Scientists from Oxford University claim that the severity of Parkinson’s disease symptoms could be monitored remotely by analysing a patient’s speech patterns.

The scientists, who examined almost 6,000 speech recordings from 42 people with Parkinson’s using new algorithms, were able to estimate overall symptom severity with an accuracy close to assessments made by clinicians.

Currently, monitoring requires frequent visits to hospital where people with Parkinson’s are physically examined by expert clinicians in order to assess their symptom severity, putting a strain on both patients and hospital resources.

But the researchers believe that their technology could help to alleviate the burden on health systems such as the NHS and make it feasible to run large-scale clinical trials for the investigation of novel Parkinson’s disease treatments.

Their studies provided good evidence that speech impairment and the average overall severity of other Parkinson’s disease symptoms are very closely linked, suggesting that symptom severity can be measured simply by analysing a person’s speech.

‘Remote monitoring – or “telemonitoring” – of people’s health is particularly important for people with Parkinson’s who may find it difficult to make frequent hospital visits,’ said Dr Max Little of Oxford University. ‘The hope is that our research could pave the way for very large clinical studies of new treatments for Parkinson’s where the sort of frequent monitoring required would not otherwise be affordable.’