Authors: Martens H, Van Nuffelen G, Dekens T, Huici MHD, Hernandez-Diaz HAK, De Letter M, De Bodt M
Title: The effect of intensive speech rate and intonation therapy on intelligibility in Parkinson’s disease
Source: Journal of Communication Disorders 2015 58: 91-105
Year: 2015
Research Design: Case Series

Purpose: Most studies on treatment of prosody in individuals with dysarthria due to Parkinson's disease are based on intensive treatment of loudness. The present study investigates the effect of intensive treatment of speech rate and intonation on the intelligibility of individuals with dysarthria due to Parkinson's disease. Methods: A one group pretest-posttest design was used to compare intelligibility, speech rate, and intonation before and after treatment. Participants included eleven Dutch-speaking individuals with predominantly moderate dysarthria due to Parkinson's disease, who received five one-hour treatment sessions per week during three weeks. Treatment focused on lowering speech rate and magnifying the phrase final intonation contrast between statements and questions. Intelligibility was perceptually assessed using a standardized sentence intelligibility test. Speech rate was automatically assessed during the sentence intelligibility test as well as during a passage reading task and a storytelling task. Intonation was perceptually assessed using a sentence reading task and a sentence repetition task, and also acoustically analyzed in terms of maximum fundamental frequency. Results: After treatment, there was a significant improvement of sentence intelligibility (effect size .83), a significant increase of pause frequency during the passage reading task, a significant improvement of correct listener identification of statements and questions, and a significant increase of the maximum fundamental frequency in the final syllable of questions during both intonation tasks. Conclusion: The findings suggest that participants were more intelligible and more able to manipulate pause frequency and statement-question intonation after treatment. However, the relationship between the change in intelligibility on the one hand and the changes in speech rate and intonation on the other hand is not yet fully understood. Results are nuanced in the light of the operated research design.

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