Alberta-made technology screens people’s speech for early signs of Alzheimer’s

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2023-06-09 19:47:09  • 4 mins

Alberta researchers have found a way to catch potential early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

They’re using a machine-learning model to detect audio cues — certain speech patterns that are linked to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

“We’re interested in looking at speech in particular as a window into the human mind, so to speak,” said Zehra Shah, a University of Alberta graduate student and lead researcher.

“The idea here is we want to look at speech as a potential biomarker in order to be able to identify patterns that might help us diagnose and monitor psychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s dementia.”

The technology listens for three features:pauses in speech, word length or complexity, and speech intelligibility.

“For dementia patients, because there might be a need for more recall, they tend to forget words and they need a certain amount of time to recall those words, so there will be longer pauses,” Shah explained.

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“A longer word, we assume, will have a higher degree of speech complexity rather than shorter words like ‘uh’ and ‘the.’

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