Final Report – Temporal Structures in Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study

With this summer coming to a close,  I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity I’ve had.  From some personal experiences, I have been led to believe that research is usually reserved for students at the graduate level. Because of this, I appreciated that Pace University has a joint faculty-student research program.  I am also very grateful for the opportunity to have been the research assistant to the Director of the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, Dr. Linda Carozza. This project like many of her other works, is facilitating a deeper discussion on the quality of life for adults who are living with dementia. This project in particular, Temporal Structures in  Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study, has focused in particular on a motor speech disorder called Dysarthria. To quickly recap, this disorder is classified by a weakening of the muscles which are required for speech production. Dysarthria is usually found in individuals with some form of brain injury or brain damage. It can also occur in individuals with dementia, as applicable to this study.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been tasked with measuring the vowels of various utterances. These utterances have been compiled from the recorded speech of volunteers for this study. This work was in a sense, daunting. Audio files averaged at about 5 minutes, but we take for granted how much one can say within that time span. It is impossible to pinpoint the boundaries of different vowels within utterances by using just one’s hearing. It creates a complication regarding reliability of the data as well. That is why we used a specific software which allowed us to view magnified images of the sound waves of this recorded speech. It required meticulous, in-depth analysis. It has taken myself and others who are working on this project, countless hours to break down, compile and analyze this data thoroughly. The reason for this level of technicality is because we are comparing the speech of these individuals with that of healthy, adult speech. In order to get the most accurate comparison and analysis, hundreds of utterances have to be analyzed. Another component of this research also seeks to measure the length of the entire utterance in addition to vowels. The results of this study are still being compiled, and Dr. Linda Carozza will present this work at the NYS Speech Convention this coming May.

This research is crucial because it may be instrumental in the innovation of therapy practices for Dysarthria. From personal observation, I have seen that pediatric speech therapy seems to be at the forefront of discussion. It is my hope that more young, speech language pathology students such as myself will take a greater interest in adult therapy. This population presents various communication disorders which may not be seen with pediatric care. It is also my belief that this type of experience serves only to better the underlying foundation which students needs in order to be successful clinicians. My participation in this research has given me a unique experience and invaluable tools which I hope to apply to my future career as a speech language pathologist.

Post #2 – Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study

It has been an amazing experience and opportunity to be a part of an undergraduate research project. I have been assisting Dr. Linda Carozza on a project titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia. As a Communication Sciences & Disorders student, I’ve found this work particularly unique as it focuses on a population which many students do not have exposure to. Older adults who are living with dementia can develop other conditions and disorders that are associated with this disease. As discussed in my previous post, one of these disorders is Dysarthria.

As this research progresses, I look forward to learning the results of the data which we have compiled and analyzed. I was tasked with labeling the vowel duration of various utterances. These utterances were collected by recording the speech of different individuals who have dementia. There has also been data compiled on the overall length of these utterances. The goal is to then analyze and compare this data with that of healthy, adult speech. These findings will be compiled and determined very soon. With these findings, Dr. Carozza has submitted to present at the NYS Speech Convention in Albany.

Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: A Continuing Study

My name is Rachel Melamudov. I am a senior student in the CSD (communication sciences and disorders) program. I have the opportunity to be a research assistant for the director of our CSD program, Dr. Linda Carozza. Our project concerns a motor speech disorder called dysarthria. The American Speech and Hearing Association states that “dysarthria happens when you have weak muscles due to brain damage. It can be mild or severe”. Dysarthria is associated with traumatic brain injuries, tumors and various forms of dementia. Dementia is a degenerative disease which encompasses numerous symptoms and affects an individual’s memory and other cognitive functions. There is no known cure for dementia. Individuals who have been given a dementia diagnosis by their physician may wait years until impaired speech function becomes noticeable.
Our project, titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia; A Continuing Study, seeks to discuss and analyze if early markers may be detected in the speech patterns of patients with dementia. We are utilizing various tools and software to study speech patterns of real patients with dementia. Previous publications do exist regarding this topic, by Dr. Carozza and also by renowned researcher, Dr. Bell-Berti. We expect to find indicators which could be extremely significant as quality of life is of the utmost importance for these individuals. Our aim for this summer is to complete these measures and compile a stats table for an article submission. Our research could be instrumental in the diagnosis and treatment of dysarthria.