Aug 26, 2009
Parkinson's disease sufferers typically face a long, difficult battle against the disorder's degenerative effects on their motor skills and speech. While many scientists are studying the potential for drugs, surgery and exercise to slow the disease's impact on the central nervous system—including tremors, stiff muscles and impaired movement—one team of researchers is experimenting with technology designed to help Parkinson's sufferers fend off voice and speech problems.
Parkinson's can leave its victims afflicted with speech that tends to be soft, hoarse and monotonous, particularly during the disease's later stages. Jessica Huber, an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is in the early stages of developing a device that could help Parkinson's sufferers articulate their thoughts more audibly by exploiting the Lombard effect, a reflex in which people automatically speak louder in the presence of background sound (for example, at a sporting event, party or restaurant).
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