Super-Early Alzheimer's Detection May Hinge On Speech Patterns

Detecting dementia and Alzheimer's early is tricky and that's a problem, as early detection — and thusly early treatment — is thought to be a very important factor in possibly slowing down the disease's progression. Thanks to studies analyzing the speech and language patterns of individuals eventually diagnosed with these disease, however, researchers may have identified a method for detecting Alzheimer's disease several years or more than a decade earlier than using other methods.

Such was the reality detailed by Psychology Assessment Center clinical director Janet Cohen Sherman, who spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston recently. It is well known that dementia and Alzheimer's cause changes to one's language abilities, and those changes can potentially be identified by looking at one's current speech and, if possible, comparing it to their past language abilities.

In particular, researchers have noted that individuals slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's become more rambling and long-winded in a vague, imprecise, and less detailed manner. These individuals essentially start talking their way to any given point in a roundabout way, using simpler language or a lesser variety of words, indicating a shrinking vocabulary and trouble making precise statements.

Researchers cite some notable public individuals who experienced this decline in language abilities before their eventual diagnoses were made. One such individual is Ronald Regan. Talking about him, Sherman explained:

Ronald Regan started to have a decline in the number of unique words with repetitions of statements over time. [He] started using more fillers, more empty phrases, like 'thing' or 'something' or things like 'basically' or 'actually' or 'well.'

The same linguistic declines, however, weren't found when analyzing George HW Bush's speech over the years.

SOURCE: The Guardian