Computer keyboards can be used to detect Parkinson's disease symptoms at home

The discovery will hopefully lead to more effective treatment

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The Independent Tech

A team of researchers has found a way for people to check themselves for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease at home, and and all it requires is an app and a computer keyboard.  

The study, which you can access here, explains how keystroke dynamics can be used to monitor the motor effects of Parkinson’s. 

The scientists asked two sets of people – 42 patients with early-stage Parkinson's and 43 healthy volunteers – to type out a passage of text for 10-15 minutes on a keyboard hooked up to a computer running special software designed to time each key’s press and release.

Subsequent analysis revealed a significant variation in the timing of each press and release amongst the group of volunteers with Parkinson’s disease. The data from the healthy group, meanwhile, was far more uniform.

“This approach uses something we do normally — interacting with a digital device — so it does not add any additional burden or take time away from daily activities,” said Luca Giancardo, the study’s lead author.

"We were able to find a signature that allows us to detect Parkinson's disease in our cohort. We envisage that this could be used to fill in the gaps between visits to the neurologist, for example, or between other tests that cannot be carried out continuously."

There’s no cure for Parkinson’s at present, but it’s possible to treat and reduce the severity of patients’ symptoms. Unfortunately, this can be difficult, as it requires close monitoring. 

The researchers hope that, by enabling patients to monitor their symptoms at home, their method will make it easier to detect Parkinson’s disease early, leading to more effective treatment.

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