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.