Cognitive Communication and Neurogenic Disorders Lab (CCANDL)
Communication Sciences and Disorders, UW-Madison
What Can Cookie Theft Tell Us About Individuals at Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease?
Speech and language changes in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia have been well documented and are typically described as “empty speech,” meaning speech filled with nonspecific language, circumlocutions, and increases in silent pauses. Our group previously identified four factors (fluency, semantic content, lexical diversity, and grammatical complexity) comprised of 10 measures of connected speech and language. We demonstrated that fluency and semantic content were associated with subclinical cognitive decline, but it is not yet known whether these language factors are associated with biomarkers of the underlying AD neuropathology. These questions led to a two-fold investigation utilizing positron emission tomography biomarkers of AD in a cognitively unimpaired sample to investigate whether: 1) the language factors were related to biomarker positivity, and 2) if the location and syntactic position of silent pauses were related to biomarker positivity. Our sample consisted of 78 participants from the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention who were cognitively unimpaired on traditional neuropsychological measures. We extracted speech and language measures from transcripts of the Cookie Theft picture description task. Our findings suggest that the efficiency of connected speech and longer adjective-initial silent pauses are associated with AD biomarker positivity in this preclinical cohort.
Funding: Data were collected under the following grants from the NIH National Institute of Aging: R01 AG070940 (Mueller), R01 AG027161 (Johnson), R01 AG031790 (Carlsson), R01 AG037639 (Bendlin), R01 AG021155 (Johnson), R01AG054059 (Gleason), R01 AG062167 (Okonkwo). These funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study or collection, management, and analysis of the data. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.