The Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease

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Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. The symptoms of Parkinson’s start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Although Parkinson's disease can't be cured, medications might significantly improve the symptoms. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, after Alzheimer’s disease.

The diagnosis of Parkinson's disease mostly relies on clinical symptoms, which hampers the detection of the earliest phases of the disease. If detected early, treatment with forthcoming disease-modifying drugs will have great therapeutic effect. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) has been widely investigated as a source of reliable biomarkers for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease and atypical parkinsonian disorders, because CSF is the biological fluid that is closest to the brain. CSF is not separated from the brain by the blood–brain barrier. Hence, proteins linked to brain-specific activities or to disease processes are more represented in the CSF than in other fluids or tissues.

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Alpha-synuclein is a protein which is abundant in the human brain. It tends to be concentrated near the tips of the nerve cells (neurons) in association with synaptic vesicles which are responsible for the release of chemicals between neurons - neurotransmission. Although the main functions of alpha-synuclein are still not fully understood, it is associated with the regulation of the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is critical in Parkinson’s Disease as it is involved in controlling the start and stop of voluntary and involuntary movements.

Lewy bodies are made up of alpha-synuclein. Recent studies have shown that alpha-synuclein form Lewy bodies which is an early symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Alpha-synuclein forms into clumps inside neurons, starting in areas of the brain that control aspects of memory and movement. This process causes neurons to work less effectively and, eventually, to die. The activities of certain brain chemicals are also affected. The result is widespread damage to specific brain regions and a decline in performance of abilities affected by those brain regions.

Artificial Intelligence based diagnosis of medical diseases has been taken into great consideration in recent years. Studies show that artificial intelligence is very effective in detecting Parkinson’s Disease using a range of biomedical voice measurements and other clinical symptoms. There is a need to detect Parkinson’s at early stages which is currently a high research priority.

Through this research I would be extending an area of detecting Parkinson’s disease using alpha synuclein to artificial intelligence which is currently unexplored. It would help medical professionals detect Parkinson’s disease at an early stage and help with the right diagnosis and patient care, eventually giving the patient a better quality of life.

Research on Parkinson’s disease has proved that alpha synuclein is responsible for formation of Lewy bodies and current research focuses on the prevention of the same. In the first part of my research I aim to focus on how artificial intelligence can help in the early detection by reviewing recent literature in the medical field. The next step would be to identify the least number of attributes that can help detect Parkinson’s disease through studying the existing literature available. By building an ANN model in MATLAB to detect Parkinson’s I would be able to conclude the least number of attributes required and the accuracy of the model. This model can then be used as is or modified with future knowledge to help researchers and medical professionals in detecting Parkinson’s disease.

Currently the detection of Parkinson’s using alpha synuclein and other CSF and blood biomarkers is done manually and having a system in place that helps makes the process faster and more efficient is needed. There are many research organizations that are working towards and funding research based on Parkinson’s disease and I intend to get the data required for my study from these resources.

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