We all use keyboards with our computers on an almost daily basis, but the tool that is used to type words, play games, navigate the web, and so on could be used for so much more, such as the diagnosing of early stage Parkinson’s disease. This was recently discovered by a group of MIT researchers (via Engadget) who found that using a keyboard to conduct tests could be a viable way of diagnosing the disease.
The researchers based their study on the premise that those with conditions affecting motor function, such as Parkinson’s, will have different typing patterns compared to those that don’t. To test this out, researchers designed a software that measured how long the subjects press each key before releasing it. Those who took longer to release a key after pressing it were found to have impaired motor skills.
This could help detect the early stages of Parkinson’s in which there are no standard lab tests to diagnose it just yet, and usually by the time the symptoms manifests itself in a more obvious manner, a big part of the brain has already been too damaged. By detecting the disease in its early stages, like most diseases, doctors will be able to better plan a treatment strategy that could potentially slow down its effects.
That being said despite the promising results of the test, the results will need to be validated in larger studies with people in various stages of the disease before it can become a standard test that doctors can given to their patients.
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