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The Accuracy of Speech and Linguistic Analysis in Early Diagnostics of Neurocognitive Disorders in a Memory Clinic Setting

ter Huurne, D., Ramakers, I., Possemis, N., Banning, L., Gruters, A., Van Asbroeck, S., König, A., Linz, N., Tröger, J., Langel, K., Verhey, F., & de Vugt, M. (2023).
Published in: Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, acac105. https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/acac105

Abstract

Objective

To investigate whether automatic analysis of the Semantic Verbal Fluency test (SVF) is reliable and can extract additional information that is of value for identifying neurocognitive disorders. In addition, the associations between the automatically derived speech and linguistic features and other cognitive domains were explored.

Method

We included 135 participants from the memory clinic of the Maastricht University Medical Center+ (with Subjective Cognitive Decline [SCD; N = 69] and Mild Cognitive Impairment [MCI]/dementia [N = 66]). The SVF task (one minute, category animals) was recorded and processed via a mobile application, and speech and linguistic features were automatically extracted. The diagnostic performance of the automatically derived features was investigated by training machine learning classifiers to differentiate SCD and MCI/dementia participants.

Results

The intraclass correlation for interrater reliability between the clinical total score (golden standard) and automatically derived total word count was 0.84. The full model including the total word count and the automatically derived speech and linguistic features had an Area Under the Curve (AUC) of 0.85 for differentiating between people with SCD and MCI/dementia. The model with total word count only and the model with total word count corrected for age showed an AUC of 0.75 and 0.81, respectively. Semantic switching correlated moderately with memory as well as executive functioning.

Conclusion

The one-minute SVF task with automatically derived speech and linguistic features was as reliable as the manual scoring and differentiated well between SCD and MCI/dementia. This can be considered as a valuable addition in the screening of neurocognitive disorders and in clinical practice.

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