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Effects of a Concurrent Motor Task on Speech Intelligibility for Speakers with Parkinson Disease
Kate Bunton and Connie K. Keintz

When patients are aware their speech is being analyzed by clinicians or researchers, they may consciously try to improve their performance. But when speaking in a natural environment speech production may deteriorate dramatically. This discrepancy in performance is commonly reported for speakers with Parkinson disease (PD) and poses a challenge for clinicians and researchers attempting to characterize their speech production difficulties. The goal of the present study was to examine whether a concurrent distractor task had an influence on speech intelligibility measured at a sentence-level and to determine whether any decrements in performance were comparable to the speaker’s usual speech performance (i.e., spontaneous speech). Sentences level material was recorded with and without a simultaneous motor task for 3 speakers with PD and 3 controls. A spontaneous speech sample was also recorded without the speakers’ direct knowledge. Sentence intelligibility scores were lower when speakers performed a motor task in conjunction with speaking compared to the speech-only condition. Intelligibility measures when the speaker performed the distractor task were comparable to the speakers’ spontaneous speech. These findings suggest that inclusion of a motor distractor task during clinical and research protocols may elicit speech more representative of the speaker’s spontaneous speech skills. [Work supported by NIH R03 DC005902]

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