Many of us know someone who has Parkinson's -- it affects more than 6 million worldwide -- and would love to play an active role in research into treatments. That's my situation: my friend Jan Stripling (left), who used to be a virtuoso ballet dancer, was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's. For someone whose entire existence revolved around the joy of high precision, coordinated movement that took a sizable fraction of his lifetime to perfect, this incurable disease, that replaces voluntary movement with tremor, rigidity and weakness, is cruel.
As a scientist, I'm fortunate to perhaps be in a position to help. But here I want to argue that anyone can help! Although there are no known biomarkers, research by me (and others) shows that with voice recordings alone, we can quantify symptoms of the disease (e.g. reproduce symptom measurement on the standard clinical scale with around 2% error), and also detect when someone has the disease (with around 99% accuracy). To adapt this technology to the standard phone network will require 10,000 voice recordings from healthy controls and people with Parkinson's.
Last month, we launched the Parkinson's Voice Initiative (PVI) to crowdsource these 10,000 calls. The response has been truly amazing -- nearly 5,000 people have contributed -- we are overwhelmed! It seems: if you provide a simple, quick (around 3 minute), anonymous, and painless way to contribute to scientific research, people will happily participate. And that gives me tremendous hope for the future of medical science.
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