By studying a simple voice recording, Parkinson's disease could be spotted years before serious symptoms develop.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a computer programme that is able to recognise the tremors, breathiness and weakness in the voice, which are thought to be early indicators of the condition, the Daily Mail reported.
AdvertisementThe voice analysis software can even provide an unprecedented level of detail that can distinguish how far along a patient is with the disease.
The Parkinson's Voice Initiative led by British scientist Dr Max Little, is looking to see if the same results can be repeated with voice recordings taken over the telephone.
Dr Little is creating a database of voices to help diagnose Parkinson's
If the research proves successful, it could have the potential to offer hope to thousands of people and become a quick and cheap diagnostic tool of the future that can be done from the comfort of the home.
"Science tells us voice impairment might be an early sign of Parkinson's. It sounds counterintuitive as Parkinson's is a movement disorder but the voice is a form of movement," the paper quoted Dr Little as saying.
"We don't tend to think of the larynx and vocal chords but you are moving them when you make speech sounds. It's a complex sound of movement and it tends to degrade in Parkinson's.
"Neurologists look at changes in the ability to move, which is done with the limbs, but we are looking in the vocal organs - the sounds that come out of the mouth. We are fairly confident we can detect the disease over the telephone," he said.
The breakthrough technology could alert doctors to prescribe early treatment, which could slow the progress of the disease.
The current approach to a Parkinson's diagnosis can take years, as there is no blood test that detects it.
Dr Little said The Parkinson's Voice Initiative could lead to voice recognition tests that can diagnose and monitor Parkinson's.
"We know that speech is often affected in people with Parkinson's - so developing a test that can spot the earliest subtle changes is an exciting prospect," he added.