At TEDx Edinburgh today, the BBC reports, mathematician Max Little has launched a new project that uses a speaker’s voice to help diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s, a devastating neurological disease that develops gradually and often starts with a very slight tremor in one hand, is notoriously hard to diagnose as there are currently no blood tests that can help doctors test for the disease. The human voice however, says Little, is affected as much by Parkinson’s as limb movement and his algorithms can currently detect the symptoms of the disease with 86% accuracy. Little recently became a TED Fellow and is now working to improve the accuracy of his algorithms. He hopes to make his tools available to doctors within the next two years.
If you have three minutes, you can even help him in his mission by making a simple call to an automated system that will ask you to answer a few questions and repeat a few sentences. Besides in the U.S. (1-857-284-8035), the team is also offering call-in numbers in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Canada and the UK.
These calls, the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative team says, will help the organization train its systems and test its algorithms. Ideally, these tests will soon be as accurate as clinical tests, but they can be administered remotely and patients will be able to do the tests themselves. In total, the initiative is hoping to record about 10,000 voices.
Little stresses that he isn’t looking to replace experts, but, as he tells the BBC, to develop a system that can “augment treatment decisions by providing data about how symptoms are changing in-between check-ups with the neurologist.”