Handwriting was used to know about the personality of an individual. But it can also help in diagnosing diseases like Parkinson’s, scientists say.
According to the scientists, the changes in handwriting can be used as an accurate and noninvasive method of diagnosing Parkinson’s at an early stage.
The methods for diagnosing Parkinson’s today are a physician evaluation or a test called SPECT, which uses radioactive material to image the brain. These methods also pose health threats on the patients.
The studies from recent years have found unique and distinctive differences between the handwriting of patients with Parkinson’s disease and that of healthy people.
“Parkinson’s patients report changes in their cognitive abilities before detecting a change in their motor abilities. Therefore, a test of cognitive impairment could attest to the presence of the disease and offer a way to diagnose it earlier,” says Professor Sara Rosenblum, of the University of Haifa’s Department of Occupational Therapy, who initiated the study.
Researchers at the University of Haifa and Rambam Hospital in Israel compared the handwriting of 40 sick and healthy people. The researchers asked them to write their names and gave them addresses to copy, two everyday tasks that require cognitive abilities.
20 adult participants were healthy while another half were known to be in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.
The writing was done on a regular piece of paper that was placed on electronic tablet, using a special pen with pressure-sensitive sensors operated by the pen when it hit the writing surface. A computerized analysis of the results compared a number of parameters: writing form (length, width and height of the letters), time required, and the pressure exerted on the surface while performing the assignment.
Analysis of the results showed differences between the patients and the healthy group. The Parkinson’s disease patients wrote smaller letters, exerted less pressure on the writing surface, and took more time to complete the task.
“Changes in handwriting can occur years before a clinical diagnosis and therefore can be an early signal of the approaching disease,” Rosenblum added.