Detecting Parkinson’s for better treatment

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MSU doctoral candidate Supraja Anand (right) prepares a speech test for Parkinson’s patient Peter Hasbrook, which helps identify changes in speech associated with the disease.
MSU doctoral candidate Supraja Anand (right) prepares a speech test for Parkinson’s patient Peter Hasbrook, which helps identify changes in speech associated with the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects a half million people in the United States, with about 50,000 newly diagnosed cases each year. There is no cure and, until now, no reliable method for detecting the disease. But an MSU research team has developed an innovative detection method that is a major breakthrough in diagnosing Parkinson’s in early stages—the point at which treatment to control symptoms is most effective.

Parkinson’s, a disorder of the nervous system that affects movement, occurs when nerve cells in the brain stop producing the chemical dopamine, which helps control muscle movement.  Without dopamine, nerve cells can’t properly send messages, causing the loss of muscle function.

The method of detection developed in part by Rahul Shrivastav, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, involves monitoring a patient’s speech patterns, specifically movement patterns of the tongue and jaw. Shrivastav says Parkinson’s affects all patients’ speech and changes in speech patterns are detectable before other movement and muscles are affected by the disease.

The new early detection method has proved to be more than 90 percent effective and is noninvasive and inexpensive. Requiring as little as two seconds of speech, monitoring can be done remotely and in telemedicine applications. In addition, the new method has the potential to track the progression of Parkinson’s and measure the effectiveness of treatment.  (Michigan State University)

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