A one-minute speech test to assess dementia risk

A one-minute speech test to assess dementia risk
A one-minute speech test to assess dementia risk

Budapest, Hungary – Analyzing temporal changes in a person’s speech could be a simple way to detect mild cognitive impairment to determine whether there is a risk of developing dementia, a study suggests.

THE Dr. János Kálmán and his colleagues at the University of Szeged, Hungary, have developed a method of automated speech analysis, the Speech-Gap Test (S-GAP Test), which is notable for focusing on temporal changes that occur when a person speaks. This means it doesn’t complicate things by also assessing the phonetics and semantics of speech, Dr Kálmán told the US edition of Medscape Medical News.

Dr Kálmán presented his findings at the 32e European Congress of Psychiatry (EPA) .

The temporal parameters of speech

The test analyzes parameters such as how quickly a person speaks, whether they hesitate when speaking, the duration of the hesitation and the number of silent pauses they take. It is possible to perform this analysis using just a 60-second speech sample, explained Dr. Kálmán, adding that other automated speech and language analysis tools currently under development, require much longer audio samples.

“We tried different approaches and ultimately settled on the temporal parameters of speech because they are not dependent on culture or education, and could be more reliable than the semantic parts of speech. analysis [de la parole] “, he explained.

The analysis of the temporal parameters of speech does not depend on the language either. Although the S-GAP test was developed using audio samples from native Hungarian speakers, Kálmán and colleagues showed that it worked equally well with samples from native English and German speakers. They now plan to further validate the test using samples from native Spanish speakers.

For screening, not for diagnosis

Currently, “the only purpose of this tool would be initial screening,” Dr. Kálmán said at the congress. This is not a diagnostic tool, and there are no plans to register it as a medical device.

A national survey of primary care physicians by Dr. Kálmán and colleagues showed that there is little time to complete standard cognitive tests during an average visit. So the original idea was that the S-GAP test would help primary care physicians quickly determine whether a patient had cognitive impairments requiring further evaluation in a memory clinic or more specialized neurology departments.

Since then, the objectives have been redefined: it is no longer a pure telemedicine solution, but a more widespread application that anyone could purchase and download on the Internet or using a smartphone.

Dr. Kálmán does not rule out developing in the future a more sophisticated version of the S-GAP test combining temporal speech parameters and biomarkers of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, which could be used in memory clinics and by neurologists for diagnostic purposes.

Detect to prevent?

The big question is what would happen to all the people who might be flagged as needing further evaluation.

According to Dr Robert Perneckzyprofessor of translational dementia research at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Germany), Imperial College London and the University of Sheffield (UK), it will likely be essential to address the factors risk of dementia.

According to Lancet Commission On dementia, there are 12 potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia. Their influence varies throughout life, but certain early events, such as the level of education achieved, cannot be modified in an elderly patient.

That said, many risk factors can still be influenced later in life, such as adequate treatment of comorbid conditions such as diabetes, alcohol consumption and smoking.

“We can act in terms of personal risk, risk reduction, which has a huge effect on the risk of dementia much later in life,” Professor Perneckzy said.

“Speech-based assessments are another opportunity to save time as physicians by conducting assessments before a person comes to the memory clinic,” he added.

Funding and links of interest

The S-GAP test is being developed at the University of Szeged. Dr. Kálmán is the co-inventor. Prof. Perneckzy has no relevant conflicts of interest, but contributed to the validation of the S-GAP test in the German language.

This article was translated from Medscape.com using several editorial tools, including AI, in the process. The content was reviewed by the editorial staff before publication.

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