In what could be called a major breakthrough, scientists claim to have developed a voice test which can predict Parkinson's disease years earlier in people.
Parkinson's is normally only diagnosed once symptoms show -- meaning it's already at an advanced stage and patients have lost a significant number of brain cells. Now, an Israeli team has devised a test to predict the neurological disorder.
In their research, the team from Haifa University have discovered that by measuring tiny changes in speech patterns, undetectable to human ear, they can tell whether a seemingly healthy person is a sufferer.
Accordingly, they developed a computer programme that can identify a Parkinson's "voice", which they claim could be used for screening those who are at the hereditary risk of the disease or as part of a national screening programme, British newspaper the Daily Mail reported.
Speech is affected by the disorder because it causes a deterioration of muscles in the neck and mouth -- giving some sufferers a husky voice. But the change is apparent to human ear after the disease has been diagnosed through symptoms such as rigid muscles, tremors, slow movement, and loss of balance.
The new test needs only a couple of sentences from patients, say the scientists. (MORE)
According to the scientists, the technique will prove crucial for sufferers of the neurological disorder because drugs and treatments are much more effective if the disease is caught as soon as possible.
Experts have welcomed the findings, published in the 'Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research'.
Dr Kieran Breen of Parkinson's UK said: "Trying to find ways to diagnose Parkinson's at an early stage is key to understanding how to develop better and more effective treatments."