AI Can Detect Parkinson’s Up To Seven Years Before Symptoms Appear

In a new development, scientists have harnessed the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify markers of Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before the onset of symptoms.

This significant breakthrough represents the first instance of early detection, providing a window of opportunity for intervention before the disease progresses.


What Is Parkinson’s Disease?


Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder characterised by a deficiency of dopamine, a neurotransmitter critical for motor control. This ailment leads to a range of motor symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia.


Utilising Existing Health Databases


Published in the journal Neurology, the research draws from two extensive health databases: the AlzEye dataset and the UK Biobank database. These datasets, despite the relatively low prevalence of Parkinson’s disease within the population, were employed to identify subtle indicators that precede clinical symptoms.


Leveraging the AlzEye Dataset


The AlzEye dataset is an assemblage of retinal images and associated clinical information, sourced from the world’s largest repository of similar data.

Intriguingly, post-mortem investigations of individuals with Parkinson’s disease have revealed disparities in the inner nuclear layer (INL) of the retina.


Emergence of “Oculomics”


The study is situated within the field of “oculomics,” which explores the correlation between ocular conditions and broader health indicators. This approach has demonstrated the potential of eye-scan data to unveil early signs not only of Parkinson’s disease but also of other neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia.


Unveiling Health Insights Through Eye Scans


Eye scans have long been employed by medical professionals to gain insights into various aspects of health. These scans have the potential to predict predispositions to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The eye is considered a “window” into the body, offering a non-invasive means of assessing overall well-being.


Revolutionising Eye Care with High-Resolution Imaging


With the routine integration of high-resolution retinal imaging into eye care, researchers emphasise the underexplored value of this data. Optical coherence tomography (OCT), a 3D scanning technique commonly used in eye clinics, provides cross-sectional views of the retina with remarkable precision down to micron scales.



Delving Deeper with Retinal Scans


While retinal images are invaluable for monitoring eye health, their potential extends beyond ocular concerns. Researchers have discovered that these scans can reveal cellular layers beneath the skin’s surface, allowing for non-intrusive assessments of overall health. Specifically, a diminished thickness of these cellular layers has been linked to an elevated risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.


Empowering AI for Rapid Analysis


Harnessing the power of advanced computers and AI technology, researchers have accelerated the analysis of large datasets of OCTs and other eye images. This approach not only expedites the diagnostic process but also enhances accuracy, enabling efficient identification of potential indicators.


A Promising Pre-Screening Tool


While the ability to predict individual Parkinson’s disease risk remains a distant goal, the research’s co-author, Siegfried Wagner from University College London, envisions the AI-powered method as a pre-screening tool for individuals at risk of the disease. This proactive strategy could enable lifestyle adjustments to mitigate disease onset and progression.


Cost-Effective and Non-Invasive Alternative


The OCT technique employed in the study offers several advantages over traditional brain scans. It is non-invasive, cost-effective, scalable, and rapid, positioning it as a viable option for large-scale screenings aimed at early Parkinson’s detection.




The convergence of AI, comprehensive health databases, and cutting-edge eye imaging techniques has ushered in a new era of medical diagnostics.

By identifying subtle markers of Parkinson’s disease years before symptoms manifest, this research holds the potential to transform patient outcomes, offering the prospect of delaying the onset and impact of debilitating neurodegenerative disorders.