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Poster E13, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Characterizing connected speech in French-speaking Alzheimer’s disease and semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia patients

Maxime Montembeault1,2, Mariem Boukadi1,2, Audrey Sheehan1,2, Robert Jr Laforce3,4, Maximiliano A. Wilson3,5, Isabelle Rouleau6, Simona M. Brambati1,2;1Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, 2Université de Montréal, 3Université Laval, 4Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec, 5Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec, 6Université du Québec à Montréal

Introduction: Language assessment plays a critical role in the clinical characterization of several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (svPPA). While these patients have been well characterized with clinical tests of language functions featuring single-word measures (e.g., word naming), much less is known in these populations in terms of connected speech. This approach provides a very complete and ecological measure of language functioning. However, only one study has previously compared AD and svPPA patients, and no study has investigated connected speech in French-speaking svPPA patients. Therefore, the aim of this study is to characterize and compare connected speech production in French-speaking svPPA and AD patients on a wide range of linguistic variables. Methods: In this study, 13 AD patients, 9 svPPA patients and 12 cognitively unimpaired elderly adults (CTRL) performed a picture description task (picnic scene from the Western Aphasia Battery) in which they were asked to describe the visually presented scene using complete sentences. All participants were French-speaking. Speech samples were recorded during a face-to-face interview and then transcribed using a modified version of the Quantitative Production Analysis. Variables of interest within five main linguistic domains (phonological production, disruptions to fluency, semantic, lexical, and syntactic) were extracted for each subject. Kruskal-Wallis H tests followed by Dunn’s post-hoc tests were used to investigate differences between groups. Results: In comparison to CTRL, AD patients presented significant impairments in fluency (higher number of pauses and false starts) and in semantic (higher number of semantic paraphasias and lower efficiency) domains. In comparison to CTRL, svPPA patients also presented significant impairments in fluency and semantic domains, but on a higher number of variables (fluency domain: higher number of pauses, abandoned sentences, and comments on word-finding difficulties; semantic domain: higher number of semantic paraphasias, lower efficiency, and number of semantic units). Additionally, they presented important lexical impairments (lower narrative-to-total-words and nouns-to-verbs ratios, higher pronouns-to-narrative-words ratio), and, to a lesser extent, syntactic impairments (lower mean utterance length). Finally, two indices were significantly different between the two patients’ groups: svPPA patients presented a lower number of semantic units and a higher number of circumlocutions in comparison to AD patients. Discussion: Our results suggest that connected speech impairments in French-speaking patients are overall consistent with the ones identified in English-speaking patients. svPPA patients appear to present difficulties on a higher number of fluency, semantic and lexical variables than AD patients, and their deficits appear consistent with their semantic breakdown. In line with previous reports, syntactic impairments in svPPA patients were restricted to a single measure of syntactic complexity. On the other hand, AD patients presented significant fluency and semantic impairments, which have also been found in past studies. Lexical impairments, which were previously reported, were not significant in the present study, even though a trend was observed in that direction. In conclusion, this study highlights the richness of the information provided by connected speech assessment and the usefulness of such tools in supporting the diagnosis of French-speaking patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

Topic Area: Language Disorders

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