Feb. 23 - Israeli researchers have found an innovative and non-invasive method of diagnosing Parkinson's Disease in its early stages. There is no clinical way to diagnose the disease, usually characterized by uncontrollable physical tremors, but the scientists at Gai University say diagnosis is as simple as writing your own name. Tara Cleary reports.
It may seem too easy to be true, but researchers at Israel's Haifa University say a basic handwriting test like this one can reveal signs of early stage Parkinson's Disease - with 97.5 percent accuracy. Professor Sara Rosenblum says all a patient has to do is write down his name and address. SOUNDBITE: PROFESSOR SARA ROSENBLUM, HAIFA UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "And while he's writing we get a lot, a lot of data, that if we can compare it, his performance to those of typically healthy people, we can see whether beyond his unique handwriting there is certain signs that indicated that there is a kind of developing of Parkinson's or other disease." There are still no clinical tests that can definitively diagnose Parkinson's. Tremors are an obvious symptom, although in most cases, by the time they develop the disease has already taken hold, affecting cognitive as well as motor control. That's why Doctor Ilana Schlesinger, senior neurologist at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center says a method of early diagnosis is key to effective treatment. SOUNDBITE: SENIOR NEUROLOGIST, DR ILANA SCHLESINGER, SAYING (English): "Now we have a tool that maybe we can diagnose the patients early and start treating them before they have the major symptoms, they can't walk, they can't function." In the study 40 participants, half of whom had early stage Parkinson's but no obvious motor symptoms, were asked to provide a handwriting sample. Based on the amount of time they took and analysis of the wriiting itself, a correct diagnosis was made in all but one case. SOUNDBITE: PROFESSOR SARA ROSENBLUM, HAIFA UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "While he is doing a kind of brain/hand activity, the way he is doing it is documented by objective measures of temporal - the time, space shell - the space of the doing, and pressure - pen tilt and pen azimuth. And in this way it detects in fact the process of brain/hand performance." There is no cure for Parkinson's disease but Rosenblum say through early detection, symptoms can at least be treated and controlled before they begin to affect a patient's quality of life.