Automated assessment of speech production and prediction of MCI in older adults
The population of older adults is growing dramatically and, with it comes increased prevalence of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Though existing cognitive screening tests can aid early detection of cognitive decline, these methods are limited in their sensitivity and require trained administrators. The current study sought to determine whether it is possible to identify persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) using automated analysis of spontaneous speech. Participants completed a brief neuropsychological test battery and a spontaneous speech task. MCI was classified using established research criteria, and lexical-semantic features were calculated from spontaneous speech. Logistic regression analyses compared the predictive ability of a commonly-used cognitive screening instrument (the Modified Mini Mental Status Exam, 3MS) and speech indices for MCI classification. Testing against constant-only logistic regression models showed that both the 3MS [χ 2(1) = 6.18, p =.013; AIC = 41.46] and speech indices [χ 2(16) = 32.42, p =.009; AIC = 108.41] were able to predict MCI status. Follow-up testing revealed the full speech model better predicted MCI status than did 3MS (p =.049). In combination, the current findings suggest that spontaneous speech may have value as a potential screening measure for the identification of cognitive deficits, though confirmation is needed in larger, prospective studies.