Dogs trained to sniff out Parkinson’s disease

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Author: Parkinson's Life editorsPublished: 4 May 2016

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In San Juan Island, US, dogs are being trained to see whether they can detect Parkinson’s disease by smell, using the same techniques used to odour-identify illegal drugs, bombs and cancer.

Lisa Holt, a dog trainer certified by the US-based National Association of Canine Scent Work, has recruited dogs to participate in an experiment that teaches them to associate the particular smell of a shirt from a person living with Parkinson’s with a ‘primary reinforcer’ – a bite of turkey.

After hundreds of exposures to the shirts, the turkey will be removed with the hope that the dogs will have learned, and will still be able to indicate, the shirt from Parkinson’s patient.

Holt said: “If we see that the dogs can indicate then we can talk about a second stage of training. First we have to find out if there’s anything to train on.”

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