Smart Phone Tests May Distinguish Parkinson’s from Idiopathic REM Sleep Behavior Disorder


In a paper published in Neurology, researchers report that consumer-grade smartphones can be used to accurately identify patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) versus those with idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder (iRBD) and to distinguish both of those patient groups from healthy controls. Postural tremor, rest tremor, and voice measured by smartphone-administered tests had the greatest value in identifying patients accurately within these 3 groups. In contrast, reaction time was least discriminatory.

Patients diagnosed with PD (n = 334) or iRBD (104), and healthy control subjects (n = 84) used a custom application on their own smartphone in both clinical and community settings to complete 7 tasks that measured voice, balance, gait, finger tapping, and reaction time, and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Statistically significant differences were observed for 3 pairwise discriminatory comparisons: controls vs iRBD, controls vs PD, and iRBD vs PD. The mean sensitivity and specificity of the comparisons ranged from 84.6% to 91.9%. 

Up to 91% of people with polysomnographically confirmed iRBD will eventually develop a neurodegenerative disorder. Detecting subtle motor impairments in otherwise asymptomatic individuals with iRBD may be an effective way of predicting conversion to PD, making the need for objective, repeatable measures of such subtle motor changes important in earlier identification of PD.


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