Parkinson's disease may be detected by phone call

Published On: Dec 11 2012 07:34:20 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 11 2012 07:45:52 AM CST

Tremors, trouble walking, stiff and achy muscles 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,” said 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.

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,” said Little.

The hope is the technology could also help doctors optimize drug timing and dosage by evaluating patients' voice changes as their medications wear off throughout the day.

So far, more than 18,000 people from around the world, those with and without Parkinson’s, have shared their voices for the research.  All it takes is a three minute call. Go to Parkinson's Voice Initiative for the number you can call to take part.