Impact of Cognitive Impairment and Dysarthria on Spoken Language in Multiple Sclerosis


Objective: To investigate the impact of cognitive impairment on spoken language produced by speakers with multiple sclerosis (MS) with and without dysarthria. Method: Sixty speakers comprised operationally defined groups. Speakers produced a spontaneous speech sample to obtain speech timing measures of speech rate, articulation rate, and silent pause frequency and duration. Twenty listeners judged the overall perceptual severity of the samples using a visual analog scale that ranged from no impairment to severe impairment (speech severity). A 2 × 2 factorial design examined main and interaction effects of dysarthria and cognitive impairment on speech timing measures and speech severity in individuals with MS. Each speaker group with MS was further compared to a healthy control group. Exploratory regression analyses examined relationships between cognitive and biopsychosocial variables and speech timing measures and perceptual judgments of speech severity, for speakers with MS. Results: Speech timing was significantly slower for speakers with dysarthria compared to speakers with MS without dysarthria. Silent pause durations also significantly differed for speakers with both dysarthria and cognitive impairment compared to MS speakers without either impairment. Significant interactions between dysarthria and cognitive factors revealed comorbid dysarthria and cognitive impairment contributed to slowed speech rates in MS, whereas dysarthria alone impacted perceptual judgments of speech severity. Speech severity was strongly related to pause duration. Conclusions: The findings suggest the nature in which dysarthria and cognitive symptoms manifest in objective, acoustic measures of speech timing and perceptual judgments of severity is complex.

Publication Title

Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society