Spontaneous language may hold clues into Alzheimer’s disease

Just as eyes are windows to the soul, so too words are windows to the mind. We can easily infer a person’s mood from the adjectives she uses, her age from her syntax, her education level from her vocabulary. Yet, it is far more difficult to detect linguistic clues into specific brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia. Relevant signs can be identified by highly trained experts, but these few individuals are hugely outnumbered by persons with AD, surpassing 43 million worldwide and growing steadily. This is an unfortunate scenario since, unlike other approaches, linguistic assessments offer a low-cost, non-invasive, culture-sensitive framework to support clinical diagnosis. Would it not be great if we had tools to do this objectively and automatically?

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