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Online AI-based test for Parkinson's severity shows promising results

IANS | September 08, 2023 03:54 PM

NEW DELHI: Researchers have developed a new online artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can help people with Parkinson's disease remotely assess the severity of their symptoms within minutes.

Described in a study, published in the journal npj Digital Medicine, the test relies on 10 taps of the finger by the user in front of a webcam to assess motor performance on a scale of 0-4.

To test the tool, the finger-tapping task was performed by 250 global participants with Parkinson's disease and the AI system's ratings were compared with those by three neurologists and three primary care physicians.

While expert neurologists performed slightly better than the AI model, the AI model outperformed the primary care physicians with UPDRS certification, said the team from the University of Rochester.

Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) is a rating tool used to gauge the severity and progression of Parkinson's disease in patients.

Doctors often have patients perform simple motor tasks to assess movement disorders and rate the severity using guidelines such as the Movement Disorder Society’s (MDS) UPDRS.

The AI model provides a rapid assessment using the MDS-UPDRS guidelines, automatically generating computational metrics such as speed, amplitude, frequency, and period that are interpretable, standardised, repeatable, and consistent with medical guidebooks. It uses those attributes to classify the severity of tremors.

"These findings could have huge implications for patients who have difficulty gaining access to neurologists, getting appointments, and travelling to the hospital, " said Ehsan Hoque, Associate Professor in Rochester’s Department of Computer Science.

"It's an example of how AI is being gradually introduced into health care to serve people outside of the clinic and improve health equity and access, " Hoque added.

The researchers said their method can also be applied to other motor tasks, which opens the door to evaluating other types of movement disorders such as ataxia and Huntington’s disease.

While the new Parkinson's disease assessment is available online, the researchers caution that it reflects an emerging technology and at this early stage should not be considered, on its own and without a physician’s input, as a definitive measure of the presence or severity of the disease.

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