One of the many frustrations of Parkinson's disease is that a patient must display outward signs of the debilitating condition before treatments can begin.

But researchers are now taking steps that could lead to early diagnosis of a disease that causes tremors and weakness.

Employing a new high-powered MRI at the Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, researchers are confident they have found signs of Parkinson's in the area of the brain where the disease causes cell degeneration.

"The ratios look different, very different," said researcher Rob Bartha.

The extraordinary detail of the scans is the key, according to Dr. Mandar Jog.

"It gives us beautiful images of very small areas," he told CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro. "We could image small regions, which has never been done before."

And that opens the door to a possible test for Parkinson's.

"That is the goal to develop a test like this," said Bartha. "Bring someone in, give them a scan of the brain and say with some certainty, 'Yes, you are getting Parkinson's' or 'You have it.'"

The idea of early diagnosis of the disease or gaining the ability to gauge the brain's reaction to medication would be good news for Beverly Lavender, a Toronto resident with Parkinson's.

"It's impacted my life greatly," says Lavender, for whom walking up stairs is an ordeal. "The physical problems get worse every year, even from month to month sometimes."

Discovering the disease before it reveals itself through weakness, freezing or balance problems would be an enormous breakthrough, Lavender said.

"Early diagnosis could at least get you started on some good lifestyle habits as well as treatments that are going to possibly slow down the progression of the disease," she said.

With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip