The body generates many signals, such as sounds and electrical pulses, some of which can be detected and measured easily, and some of which are harder to assess. Both medical technology and signal analysis techniques are continually advancing, generating new tools for registering and analyzing such bodily signals.
Many medical disorders are reflected in changes in these signals. In the early stages of the disease, such changes may be minor, requiring sensitive tools to detect any distortions or disturbances. This holds true for both physical and psychological disorders. However, the detection of small initial changes can be the basis for an early diagnosis of a serious disease and may be the starting point of a successful healing process. For instance, if you are able to detect a very small tumor, you may be able to treat it before it grows and spreads to other parts of the body.
Detecting neurological problems
The muscles in our body are controlled by our nervous system. Changes in our nervous system are therefore often reflected in the performance of our muscles. Clear examples of this are the physical difficulties experienced in neurological disorders such as Parkinsons Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimers Disease. An early detection of minute changes in physical performance may be the basis of an early diagnosis and ideally the starting point of a successful intervention. One of the groups of muscles that are affected in an early phase of e.g. ALS are the vocal folds. An impairment of vocal fold function results in speech disorders. GVCs speech analysis algorithms provide a sensitive analysis of voice characteristics, which aims at detecting these speech problems even when they are still small.
Applications in detection and monitoring
Recently GVC has established research cooperation with leading academic institutes in the field of neurology in the Netherlands to further investigate the potential role of automated speech analysis based on GVC technology in early detection of specific neurological disorders. For example, an upcoming study is directed at the diagnosis of ALS. ALS is a serious neurological disease that has recently drawn worldwide attention via the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Beside its role in early detection, voice-based analysis of a neurological disorder such as ALS provides a tool for monitoring the progress of the disease and assessing the effectiveness of treatment. Current methods include painful electromyograms (EMG), which involve sticking needles into muscles. Ouch! It is wonderful to imagine that a GVC application could render such painful testing less necessary.