Cognitive and Structural Correlates of Conversational Speech Timing in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild-to-Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease: Relevance for Early Detection Approaches.

Céline de Looze*, Amir Dehsarvi, Lisa Crosby, Aisling Vourdanou, Robert F. Coen, Brian A. Lawlor, Richard B. Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Increasing efforts have focused on the establishment of novel biomarkers for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and prediction of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)-to-AD conversion. Behavioral changes over the course of healthy ageing, at disease onset and during disease progression, have been recently put forward as promising markers for the detection of MCI and AD. The present study examines whether the temporal characteristics of speech in a collaborative referencing task are associated with cognitive function and the volumes of brain regions involved in speech production and known to be reduced in MCI and AD pathology. We then explore the discriminative ability of the temporal speech measures for the classification of MCI and AD.

Method: Individuals with MCI, mild-to-moderate AD and healthy controls (HCs) underwent a structural MRI scan and a battery of neuropsychological tests. They also engaged in a collaborative referencing task with a caregiver. The associations between the conversational speech timing features, cognitive function (domain-specific) and regional brain volumes were examined by means of linear mixed-effect modeling. Genetic programming was used to explore the discriminative ability of the conversational speech features.

Results: MCI and mild-to-moderate AD are characterized by a general slowness of speech, attributed to slower speech rate and slower turn-taking in conversational settings. The speech characteristics appear to be reflective of episodic, lexico-semantic, executive functioning and visuospatial deficits and underlying volume reductions in frontal, temporal and cerebellar areas.

Conclusion: The implementation of conversational speech timing-based technologies in clinical and community settings may provide additional markers for the early detection of cognitive deficits and structural changes associated with MCI and AD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number637404
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • speech timing
  • conversation
  • cognitive function
  • brain volumes
  • Alzheimer

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