3 posts tagged “Parkinson’s research”

Let’s talk: Parkinson’s disease, speech changes + communication issues

Posted 1 week ago by

Parkinson’s disease can cause your voice to become raspy, quiet or unsteady, and motor symptoms can make writing and typing more difficult. Have you experienced communication issues like these? See what others have tried — from Lee Silverman Voice Treatment and voice-activated “smart” devices to (drumroll please…) singing classes.

How PD can impact communication

Parkinson’s affects the part of the brain and nerves that control speech and oral/facial movement. ParkinsonsDisease.net says PD may cause:

  • Softer, breathy, or hoarse voice
  • Slurred speech
  • Mumbling or rapid speech
  • Monotone voice, lacking the normal ups and downs
  • Slower speech because of difficulty finding the right words
  • Trouble participating in fast-paced conversations.

They also break down the medical terms related to these speech symptoms:

  • Dysarthria — A motor speech disorder or impairment in speaking due to PD affecting the muscles required for speech
  • Hypophonia — Soft speech or an abnormally weak voice caused by the weakening muscles
  • Tachyphemia — Also known as “cluttering,” this is characterized by excessively fast talking and rapid stammering that can be difficult to understand

In addition, people with PD may experience tremor, rigidity and dystonia or cramping, which can make writing and typing difficult. Research has shown that about half of people with PD have micrographia (small, cramped handwriting).

Treatments and tools for communication

In our recent roundup of products that help people live better with PD, some members said they use an adaptive pen (Ring-Pen) to help with handwriting, Dragon Naturally Speaking (speech recognition software) to help with typing and computer use, and “smart” speakers/home devices (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) to use voice commands to search the web or make a call.

Here are some other therapies and tools mentioned on PatientsLikeMe and around the web to help manage PD communication issues:

  • Speech-language therapy or SLT (which can also help with dysphagia/swallowing issues and saliva control)
  • Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT®), which is a specific type of speech therapy first developed in the 1980s specifically for people with PD (see research on LSVT and join PatientsLikeMe for full access to members’ evaluations of this treatment)
  • Speech amplification devices, such as Spokeman, ChatterVox and Oticon (see a Canadian study on these devices for people with PD — jump to page 70 for patients’ ratings). One person even shared on Reddit about hacking a collar-style microphone to work all day with an Echo/Alexa or smart home device (for his mom with PD)
  • Free dictation software, which is now available on most Apple/iOS and Android phones/mobile devices — just look for the microphone icon next to your space bar on the keyboard where you write text messages (hint: this works for almost anywhere you can type on the PatientsLikeMe app — get the iOS app here and the Android app here!)
  • Other dictation tricks for Apple devices as well as Android, Windows and other systems (many work with Google docs — a free alternative to dictation software)
  • Voice banking with programs like VocaliDMessage Banking or ModelTalker (check out our recent roundup of communication tools for people with ALS)

And explore even more Apple and Android accessibility tools.

Singing or music therapy for PD

Researchers are studying the positive effects of singing in people with PD. Initial research from Iowa State University (which has a weekly singing class for people with PD) shows that regular singing and voice exercises may help the muscles involved in speaking, swallowing and respiratory control. Singing in a group may also help with symptoms like depression and tremor, and overall quality of life, researchers in Australia say.

Choirs for people with PD have popped up across the U.S., from California to Georgia. (Add a comment below if you know of any in your area!)

Which communication issues are you dealing with these days? What’s been the most (or least) helpful? Join PatientsLikeMe today to check out or take part in this forum conversation with others living with PD.

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PatientsLikeMe’s Paul Wicks Is a TED2013 Fellow

Posted November 14th, 2012 by

PatientsLikeMe Research & Development Director Paul Wicks, PhD

We are thrilled to announce that PatientsLikeMe Research & Development Director Dr. Paul Wicks, PhD, has been named a TED2013 Fellow.  He is one of 20 individuals to be selected from more than 1,200 candidates to attend the TED2013 conference in Long Beach, California, participate in a preconference bootcamp and receive mentoring from the TED community.

If you’re not familiar with it, TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.  It started out as a conference designed to bring together people from Technology, Entertainment and Design (T-E-D) and has since evolved into a global movement for sharing big ideas.  In addition to annual conferences in the US and UK (TEDGlobal), which bring together movers and shakers for inspiring talks of 18 minutes or less, TED sponsors local events (TEDx) and shares many of its videotaped talks via TEDTalks and TEDxTalks. (Among them: a 2009 talk by PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder Jamie Heywood, a 2010 talk by Paul Wicks and a 2011 talk by PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder Ben Heywood.)

Click Here to Read About the 20 Individuals Selected as TED2013 Fellows

The theme for the TED2013 conference is “The Young. The Wise.  The Undiscovered.”  Accordingly, this year’s class of TED Fellows represents “young innovators from around the globe, all with insightful, bold ideas that have the potential to influence our world.”  Paul is a perfect fit for this mission, having already been named one of the best young innovators under the age of 35 by MIT’s Technology Review as well as their “Humanitarian of the Year” in 2011.  We know he won’t stay “undiscovered” for long!

A big thanks goes to TEDGlobal 2012 Fellow Max Little, who nominated Paul for this prestigious opportunity.  An applied mathematician who is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at MIT, Max is working on a breakthrough technique to monitor – and potentially screen for – Parkinson’s disease through simple voice recordings.  Learn more about Max’s ingenious idea in his June 2012 TEDTalk below and stay tuned for more coverage of this trailblazing researcher in the coming weeks.