Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disease in the world following Alzheimer’s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Parkinson’s afflicts approximately 10 million people worldwide. Previously there has been no way to detect and diagnose Parkinson’s before symptoms appeared. Waiting until symptoms show up lessens the chances of holding off or mitigating the effects of the disease. Dramatic results from a study in Australia may change the Parkinson’s paradigm with an accurate test for early detection.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have developed a test that may have the potential to detect Parkinson’s disease before physical symptoms appear. Medical researchers have long known that Parkinson’s often disrupts patient’s ability to write and draw. In the RMIT study, published in Frontiers in Neurology, 92 participants were asked to complete a drawing of a spiral on a digital drawing tablet, connecting dot-to-dot. Half of the subjects had no Parkinson’s symptoms. The rest of the subjects had mild to severe cases of the disease. A tablet app performed real-time analysis of the sketches to determine whether or not the subjects showed signs of Parkinson’s. In results so dramatic they beg for replicated studies, the spiral sketch test and the mobile app proved to be 93% accurate in reporting disease severity.

Should the RMIT test prove valid and reliable, which would be a wonderful breakthrough, people over a certain age can expect to connect the spiral’s dots at their next annual physical.