Parkinson's UK funds mobile apps

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth are working to develop smartphone applications to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their speech.

Dr Roger Elgin, a lecturer in creative technologies, has been awarded an innovation grant of £35,000 from Parkinson’s UK to develop the apps.

Dr Elgin has already developed a basic app for mobile phones, but said it needed to be further improved and refined.

“Many people with Parkinson’s already have and use mobile phones, making them a low-cost, simple and effective way for helping people improve their own speech,” he said.

The grant will be used to develop an app with two key functions. The first is a feedback meter that will help people judge how loud their speech is in comparison to background noise and indicate what adjustments need to be made in order for them to be heard.

The second function is intended to be a voice training tool to encourage users to speak more loudly.

Dr Elgin said the use of such apps could be extended. For example, information could be sent to health professionals so speech therapists could monitor their patients’ progress remotely, making therapy much easier and cheaper.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research and innovation at Parkinsons UK, said he was encouraged by the research.

“Speech problems affect about 70% of people with Parkinson’s. This can make everyday things much more difficult, and can have a profound impact on their life.

“Speech therapy can help, but speech therapists have limited time and resources, so simple mobile phone applications that people can use in their everyday life offer exciting potential to help tackle speech problems.” The grant is expected to fund the project for one year.

Last updated: 9 January 2012 13:12

9 January 2012