By studying subtle changes in President Ronald Reagan's speech patterns while he was in office, ASU's Visar Berisha and Julie Liss have linked these changes to the onset of dementia, years before doctors diagnosed his Alzheimer's disease in 1994.
Berisha is an assistant professor in Arizona State University's Department of Speech and Hearing Science and School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; Liss is an associate dean of ASU's College of Health Solutions. Their research was featured in the New York Times.
Their findings , which were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, do not prove Reagan exhibited signs of dementia that would have adversely affected his judgment and ability to make decisions in office. But the research does suggest that alterations in speech one day might be used to predict development of Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions years before symptoms are clinically perceptible.
Berisha told the New York Times their research is part of a larger effort to develop objective tests that would serve as bellwethers for Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. He and his team also hope to devise a study in which the conversations between physicians and patients are recorded at each visit and later analyzed to determine if speech and language changes can predict the appearance of dementia.