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Funded Studies

Objectively Measuring the Severity of Vocal and Speech-related Symptoms Associated with Parkinson’s Disease

Study Rationale: The ability to objectively measure vocal symptoms is necessary to better characterize the emergence and development of speech deficits, particularly in the early phases of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Conducting such assessments using an at-home, digital tool will be less burdensome than visiting a clinic and may allow detecting of fine-grained voice changes that would not otherwise be captured by subjective clinical assessments. A digital biomarker would also provide a useful addition to clinical research and diagnostics. The aim of this study is to develop methods to objectively quantify the severity of PD-related vocal changes and speech symptoms. 

Hypothesis: We predict that smartphone-based, at-home vocal and speech assessment algorithms will be able to differentiate between people with PD and healthy volunteers. 

Study Design: We will collect data from 120 volunteers in four cohorts: the first two will consist of people diagnosed with PD who have either unilateral or bilateral impairment. The third cohort will consist of individuals meeting the criterion for prodromal PD. Participants in these cohorts will be receiving standard of care. The final cohort will include age-matched healthy volunteers. Selection for all cohorts will be overseen by Dr. Tanya Simuni. Each participant will provide informed consent and be on the study for 10 weeks. Data collection will include clinical assessments as well as digital at-home voice assessments. 

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: If successful, our digital biomarker for characterization of vocal and speech impairment would support remote monitoring of vocal symptoms, provide feedback and evaluation for voice treatment, enhance motivation for speech therapy, accelerate the development of new drugs and therapies and ultimately aid in disease management. 

Next Steps for Development: If the digital biomarker is valid, the next step will be clinical validation to determine its utility for monitoring changes in symptoms through disease progression or the effectiveness of treatments.


  • Tanya Simuni, MD, FAAN

    Chicago, IL United States

  • Cynthia Poon, PhD

    Chicago, IL United States

  • Robert Ellis, PhD

    New York, NY United States

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