The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Certain Parkinson’s patients overestimate crowds more strongly

Certain Parkinson's patients overestimate the number of people in a room more than others. According to a new study from Lausanne VD, this could make it easier to monitor the disease.

In their study published on Tuesday in the journal "Nature Communications", researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) showed that Parkinson's patients who experience so-called presence hallucinations overestimate the number of people in a room more than those without these hallucinations. Presence hallucinations create the feeling that someone is standing behind or next to them, although this is not actually the case.

In previous studies, the research team had shown that such hallucinations are an early sign of rapid cognitive decline in Parkinson's disease. In many people, such hallucinations also occur long before the first motor symptoms.

However, this overestimation only applies to people - when the test subjects were asked to estimate the number of boxes in a room, there was no difference, as the EPFL wrote in a press release.

Online test

To come to this conclusion, the researchers first triggered presence hallucinations in healthy test subjects using a special procedure in which a robot touched the subjects' backs. With the help of virtual reality goggles, they were then shown a room in which five, six, seven or eight people were present. But only for 200 milliseconds, which is too short to count the people.

It was found that people in whom such hallucinations were artificially induced overestimated the number of people.

In a second step, the researchers applied the results to an online test that 170 Parkinson's patients completed from home. 69 of them suffered from presence hallucinations. They overestimated the number of people in the room more than the Parkinson's patients without hallucinations. According to the EPFL, they sometimes estimated eleven or even more people, although only eight were shown.

With this online test, the researchers now hope to be able to easily monitor presence hallucinations and thus Parkinson's disease, according to EPFL.

©Keystone/SDA

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