Slurred speech could be the first sign of Parkinson’s disease

A study carried out by experts from the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU), has suggested that speech impairment it could be the first sign of Parkinson’s disease.

This pathology is generally associated with loss of motor function such as, for example, hand tremors, muscle stiffness, or balance problemsalthough as motor activity decreases the function of the vocal cords, diaphragm and lungs also decreases.

“Speech changes often occur even before motor function disorders, which is why speech disturbance could be the first sign of the disease,” said the experts, whose work has been published in the journal ‘Applied Sciences’.

Early-stage Parkinson’s patients may speak in a calmer manner, which may also be monotonous, less expressive, and slower. However, as the disease progresses, hoarseness, stuttering, slurring, and missing pauses between words may become more apparent.

Taking these symptoms into account, Lithuanian researchers have developed a system to detect the disease earlier. “Our method is designed to facilitate early diagnosis of the disease and track the effectiveness of treatment,” they have emphasized, after reporting that they have used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and evaluate speech signals, where calculations and diagnoses they are done in seconds, instead of hours.

Thus, in a soundproof booth, they used a microphone to record the speech of healthy and Parkinson’s patients, and the artificial intelligence algorithm “learned” to perform signal processing by evaluating these recordings. “Our results have a very high scientific potential. However, there is still a long and challenging way to go before it can be applied in daily clinical practice,” they concluded.