Speech impairment is an early symptom of Parkinson's disease. We, at BreatheWorks, have strong academic and clinical experience in supporting the special speech and voice needs of people who suffer with this. But are speech and voice by themselves useful markers for detecting Parkinsonism?
A retrospective study in Australia has summarized all available data on analysis methods and signal features. There are 147 studies in existence, with different datasets, recording protocols, and signal analysis methods. In this evaluative study, the features that separate Parkinson’s patients from healthy controls were tabulated and quantified, with a secondary summative discussion on computerized speech analysis and the barriers that limit its wide use.
The results, published in Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine (Ngo QC, et al., 2022 Nov;226:107133. doi: 10.1016/j.cmpb.2022.107133) show that speech and voice may indeed be valuable markers for Parkinson’s disease. However, the large differences among the datasets make it difficult to compare the different studies. Speech analysis methods, the authors warn as well, if they are not informed by deep physiological understanding of the disease, could conceivably be met with skepticism by some specialty clinicians.
Nevertheless, they conclude, on the evidence of their classification and correlation results, there is potential utility in speech and voice for the detection and assessment of Parkinson’s disease.
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