• Sunday, April 14, 2024

HEALTH

Slowed speech potential indicator of cognitive decline, says study

This approach could offer a non-invasive and cost-effective means of screening individuals for early signs of cognitive impairment. (Representative image: iStock)

By: Vibhuti Pathak

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, involved 125 healthy adults spanning ages 18 to 90.

Participants were tasked with describing a scene in detail, with recordings of their descriptions analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) software to assess speech speed, pause duration, and vocabulary diversity.

While difficulty in word retrieval has traditionally been associated with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the study suggests that the speed of speech may be a more reliable indicator of brain health in older adults.

Additionally, the researchers found a correlation between age-related decline in executive abilities—such as concentration, thinking speed, and task planning—and the pace of everyday speech.

This suggests that slowed speech may signal a broader cognitive decline beyond just word-finding difficulties.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham, involved analysing speech samples from participants over the age of 65. By measuring the rate of speech and the number of pauses, researchers identified patterns associated with cognitive decline.

The results indicated that individuals exhibiting slowed speech were more likely to experience cognitive impairment than those who merely forgot words.

These findings have significant implications for the early detection and diagnosis of cognitive decline. By focusing on speech patterns, healthcare professionals may be better equipped to identify individuals at risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Furthermore, the study highlights the potential role of technology in monitoring changes in speech. With advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, researchers are exploring the use of voice analysis tools to detect subtle variations in speech that may indicate cognitive decline.

This approach could offer a non-invasive and cost-effective means of screening individuals for early signs of cognitive impairment.

However, it’s essential to recognize that slowed speech alone may not necessarily indicate cognitive decline in every case. Other factors, such as age-related changes in speech production or underlying medical conditions, could also contribute to variations in speech patterns. Therefore, comprehensive assessments by healthcare professionals are crucial for accurate diagnosis and intervention.

In conclusion, the study underscores the potential value of slowed speech as a marker of cognitive decline. By recognizing changes in speech patterns, healthcare professionals may be able to identify individuals at risk of cognitive impairment and intervene early to provide appropriate support and care.

Continued research in this area, coupled with advancements in technology, holds promise for improving the early detection and management of cognitive decline in ageing populations.

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