Journal Article Vocabulary size in speech May Be an early indicator of cognitive impairment

Aramaki, Eiji  ,  Shikata, Shuko  ,  Miyabe, Mai  ,  Kinoshita, Ayae

11 ( 5 ) 2016-05-13 , Public Library of Science
Little is known about the relationship between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and changes to language abilities. Here, we used the revised Hasegawa Dementia Scale (HDS-R) to identify suspected MCI in elderly individuals. We then analyzed written and spoken narratives to compare the language abilities between study participants with and without MCI in order to explore the relationship between cognitive and language abilities, and to identify a possible indicator for the early detection of MCI and dementia. We recruited 22 people aged 74 to 86 years (mean: 78.32 years; standard deviation: 3.36). The participants were requested to write and talk about one of the happiest events in their lives. Based on HDS-R scores, we divided the participants into 2 groups: the MCI Group comprised 8 participants with a score of 26 or lower, while the Healthy Group comprised 14 participants with a score of 27 or higher. The transcriptions of both written and spoken samples for each participant were used in the measurement of NLP-based language ability scores. Our analysis showed no significant differences in writing abilities between the 2 groups in any of the language ability scores. However, analysis of the spoken narrative showed that the MCI Group had a significantly larger vocabulary size. In addition, analysis of a metric that signified the gap in content between the spoken and written narratives also revealed a larger vocabulary size in the MCI Group. Individuals with early-stage MCI may be engaging in behavior to conceal their deteriorating cognition, thereby leading to a temporary increase in their active spoken vocabulary. These results indicate the possible detection of early stages of reduced cognition before dementia onset through the analysis of spoken narratives.

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