There’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s, a debilitating neurological disease. There’s also no blood test that can detect it, meaning early intervention is almost impossible.
But soon there might be a shockingly easy way to screen for Parkinson’s disease. It would be as simple as picking up the telephone and saying “ahhh.”
“There’s some evidence, admittedly weak, that voice disturbances may well be one of the first or early indicator of the disease,” mathematician Max Little tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
Little is head of the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative and he’s created an algorithm that can determine whether or not a person has Parkinson’s just by the sound of their voice.
Right now, the algorithm has a 99 percent success rate.
A Surprising Result
Little worked on this algorithm while he was getting his PhD at Oxford. It didn’t occur to him that it could be used to detect Parkinson’s disease until a chance encounter with a researcher from Intel.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Max, we’ve got vast amounts of data recorded from Parkinson’s disease patients and we really don’t know what to do with it. So perhaps your algorithms might be useful for analyzing this,’” Little remembers.
The recordings were voices of people both with and without Parkinson’s and Little’s algorithm sorted them. It was 86 percent accurate.
“And that’s when we thought ‘Ahh, okay, we got something here,’” Little says. Read the rest of the article and hear voice samples here.