Parkinson’s disease is very difficult to diagnose. Currently, it takes a professional opinion from a neurologist to receive this diagnosis, as there are no tests that are definitive. However, that could change soon thanks to the results of a new study. The study has shown that the use of an EEG, or electroencephalogram, could be a good and effective option for this diagnosis.
The Current Diagnosis for Parkison's Disease
Parkinson’s is a very serious disease that affects more than 10 million people around the world. However, despite the fact that it is such a widespread disease, there has not been a good way to get a diagnosis. Ultimately, it requires the assessment of a neurologist. They will ask the patient to perform different tasks.
The types of tasks that are requested can vary. They will often include those that most would consider relatively simple such as walking, speaking, drawing or writing. The neurologist will likely conduct an examination of the face and the limbs, as well. They are looking for issues with the facial expression and the presence of tremors, which can be indicative of Parkinson’s disease.
Even though neurologists might be highly trained, a diagnosis like this is very subjective. Therefore, researchers have been looking for methods that are accurate and easier. A team made of researchers from the University of Oregon in Eugene and the University of California in San Diego, looked into using an EEG for the diagnosis.
How Could the EEG Help?
An EEG will record electrical activity that is produced in the brain. The doctors place small sensors onto the scalp to capture this activity. In the past, researchers had attempted to use EEGs as a way to provide a diagnosis, but the results were not effectual. The lead investigator on the latest study, Nicole Swan, PhD., believes that this occurred because the research in the past used sine waves as the focal point. These waves seem rounder than others. The new study found that looking at the angles and the sharpness of the brain waves would be a good way to detect Parkinson’s.
Scott Cole, PhD., saw that there may be a link between sharp brain waves and Parkinson’s. By looking at the brain waves taken from 15 patients with Parkinson’s disease, as well as the brain waves of 16 healthy people, they were able to get a better look at the unfiltered waves. They found that the slant of the waves was important to those who had Parkinson’s.
This is an important finding, as it means that having a simple and noninvasive method of helping to detect Parkinson’s could be close. The researchers hope that it will eventually be able to be used not just as a diagnostic tool, but as a tool to help track the changes that are occurring in brains of patient’s suffering from the disease.
Of course, as with many studies, the researchers caution that this is still very new and that they do not know yet whether the approach will be exactly what is needed. However, they believe they are on the right track and that it could even eventually have an effect on the treatment for these patients.
The researchers believe that the next step should be a larger study that looks at EEG data, along with reports from the patients themselves and their medical history. Still, it is exciting that they are getting closer to making more headway into this field.