Speech and language impairments, generally attributed to lexico-semantic deficits, have been documented in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). This study investigates the temporal organisation of speech (reflective of speech production planning) in reading aloud in relation to cognitive impairment, particularly working memory and attention deficits in MCI and AD. The discriminative ability of temporal features extracted from a newly designed read speech task is also evaluated for the detection of MCI and AD. Sixteen patients with MCI, eighteen patients with mild-to-moderate AD and thirty-six healthy controls (HC) underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests and read a set of sentences varying in cognitive load, probed by manipulating sentence length and syntactic complexity. Our results show that mild-to-moderate AD is associated with a general slowness of speech, attributed to a higher number of speech chunks, silent pauses and dysfluences, and slower speech and articulation rates. Speech chunking in the context of high cognitive-linguistic demand appears to be an informative marker of MCI, specifically related to early deficits in working memory and attention. In addition, Linear Discriminant Analysis shows the ROC AUCs (Areas Under the Receiver Operating Characteristic Curves) of identifying MCI vs. HC, MCI vs. AD and AD vs HC using these speech characteristics are 0.75, 0.90 and 0.94 respectively. The implementation of connected speech-based technologies in clinical and community settings may provide additional information for the early detection of MCI and AD.
Trinity College Dublin ->