The speed a person types on a keyboard could reveal if they have the early signs of Parkinson’s disease, new research suggests.
The time it takes for a person to press different keys can indicate if they are suffering from hand tremors, which affect around three quarters of Parkinson’s sufferers and can appear up to six years before they are diagnosed.
When typing speed is compared between people with and without the movement disorder, it accurately diagnoses Parkinson’s in 80 per cent of cases, an Australian study found.
Researchers believe this could one day be used by both GPs and suspected sufferers themselves to determine if they have the condition. Early diagnosis is important due to it allowing the prescription of medications that slow the disease’s progression.
Parkinson’s affects around one in every 350 adults in the UK and a total of one million people in the US.
The speed you type on a keyboard could show if you have the early signs of Parkinson’s (stock)
How the research was carried out
The researchers, from Charles Sturt University, Queensland, analysed 76 people, of which 27 had mild Parkinson’s that did not require medication.
Out of all of the participants, 15 had hand tremors but did not necessarily have Parkinson’s.
Over nine months, a programme was installed on all of the participants’ at-home computer keyboards to monitor how quickly they pressed the keys.
This speed was then compared against the standard frequency of a Parkinson’s patient’s hand tremor, which is 4-to-6 Hz.
Results suggest this method diagnoses mild Parkinson’s with 80 per cent accuracy.
Parkinson’s affects one in every 350 adults in the UK and one million people in the US (stock)
Aim to develop a typing diagnosis tool
Study author Warwick Adams, who has Parkinson’s himself, told the New Scientist: ‘The end-game is to develop a widely-available screening test for both GP’s and individuals.’
Mr Adams previously discovered the flow of a person’s typing can also indicate whether they have Parkinson’s, which he wishes to combine with his most recent finding to create a diagnosis tool.
Yet, researchers from the Integral A.C. Neuroscience Center HM CINAC, Spain, who have also found typing patterns change in Parkinson’s patients, add tremors only generally occur when a hand is resting and not when it is being used.
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S? THE INCURABLE DISEASE THAT STRUCK BOXER MUHAMMAD ALI
Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.
Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.
It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.
It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.
Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.
There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.
The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.
Being stressed at work increases the risk of Parkinson’s – but only in men
This comes after research released earlier this month suggested being stressed at work increases the risk of Parkinson’s – but only in men.
Men in demanding, time-pressured positions that they do not feel they have much control over are more at risk of the movement disorder, according to a study of more than two million people.
In contrast, women who feel they have control over their jobs are more likely to develop Parkinson’s, the research, by the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, adds.
The researchers believe women with too much control over their jobs may put in more overtime or take their work home with them, which can cause stress.
Previous studies suggest the stress hormone cortisol is higher in Parkinson’s patients, which, along with genetic factors, may be behind the condition’s onset.