Parkinson’s disease remains one of the most dreaded neurodegenerative disorders to affect the human race. An early diagnosis of the disease can be quite challenging, but a new study has revealed one symptom that can help spot the disease in its early stages: a change in speech. 

A recent study by researchers from Kaunas University of Technology reports that alteration in speech can be an indicator used in the early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. They also report that despite these alterations being hard to detect by the human ear, with the right tools and systems in place, they can be picked up on.

Parkinson’s is often regarded as the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, right behind Alzheimer’s disease, affecting over 10 million people worldwide. It affects the central nervous system, particularly the motor system, and manifests as unintended and uncontrollable movements like hand tremors, muscle stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

To diagnose Parkinson’s, a neurological examination and a proper physical examination to detect the signs and symptoms of the disease are required. The authors believe that this system of diagnosis only detects the condition when in a more advanced stage and for this reason, they developed a new system to detect the disease a little earlier. They do caution, however, that their system isn’t ready to replace the routine system just yet.

 “We are not creating a substitute for a routine examination of the patient – our method is designed to facilitate early diagnosis of the disease and to track the effectiveness of treatment,” says Rytis Maskeliūnas, a researcher at Kaunas University of Technology, Faculty of Informatics and lead author of the study.

Study Methodology

The study was based on distinguishing between the speech patterns of healthy individuals and individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 104 participants without Parkinson’s and 61 participants diagnosed with Parkinson’s provided voice samples of a balanced Lithuanian sentence in a soundproof room. Artificial intelligence was then used to analyze speech signals and patterns of both groups of participants. 


Upon comparison, participants with early-stage Parkinson’s spoke in a quieter, monotonous, and less expressive manner compared to healthy participants. Their speech was also observed to be more fragmented. The results also report these changes to speech being difficult to detect by the human ear, particularly in the early stages. As the disease advances, however, speech becomes more impaired as stuttering becomes more pronounced as well as slurred pronunciation of words and the loss of pauses between words.

“So far, our approach is able to distinguish Parkinson’s from healthy people using a speech sample. This algorithm is also more accurate than previously proposed,” explains Kipras Pribuišis, lecturer at the Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences faculty of medicine. 

Although premature at this point as more data will be required for more definitive results, a system of diagnosis like this one would have unimaginable impacts on the management of Parkinson’s. With early diagnosis comes early intervention which would better help manage the neurological disease. 

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