Parkinson’s disease: Study identifies signal in voice that could lead to early diagnosis

Parkinson’s disease, along with many other degenerative diseases such as dementia or motor neuron disease, is a devastating prognosis for both the patient and their family. There are currently more than 135,000 people with Parkinson’s disease in the UK. The prevalence rate according to the most recent data is 286 individuals per 100,000 people. As with other conditions, the key to Parkinson’s disease is early diagnosis so any available treatments can be given; Scientists now believe that one of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease can be found in the voice.

Researchers from the University of Arizona have found a link between the gene in the body that causes Parkinson’s disease and vocal changes.

The research suggests that a specific gene linked to Parkinson’s disease could be behind the vocal changes associated with the condition. Parkinson’s patients usually have a soft, monotonous voice.

The hope is that establishing this association will lead to early diagnosis and initiation of treatment to halt progression of the disease.

Professor Julie Miller said of the researcher: “We have a huge gap here – we don’t know how this disease affects the regions of the brain that produce sounds, and this is really an opportunity to intervene early and come up with better treatments.”

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Similar to other neurodegenerative conditions such as motor neuron disease and dementia, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease.

However, unlike other diseases, there are some treatments the NHS says can “help relieve symptoms and maintain quality of life” such as supportive therapies, medication and surgery.

Early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
• shivering
slow movement
• Muscle stiffness.

While these are the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the NHS adds “there can be causes other than Parkinson’s disease”.

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The discovery of the cell that causes Parkinson’s disease is a watershed moment for the scientific community that could lead to a greater understanding of how the disease occurs.

Moreover, if scientists can figure out how to stop the death of these cells, this could in turn lead to a potential treatment for the condition.

Although it is possible to live with Parkinson’s disease for a while and get relief from its symptoms, it is a losing battle.

In a few years, the hope is that the tide of battle can turn in the patient’s favour.

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