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Virtual Speech Therapists - Expanding the Horizons of Speech Treatment for Parkinson’s disease
A.E. Halpern, R. Cole, L.O. Ramig, J. Yan, J. Petska, S. Vuuren, J. Spielman

The LSVT® program has been documented to improve speech and voice in individuals with Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (IPD). Despite these advancements, the “real world” treatment of speech remains an unmet need for many individuals. There is a growing need for accessible treatment which can be delivered at an effective dose, consistent with an intensity required for motor learning. An LSVT Virtual Therapist (LSVT-VT) could address this need by offering an accessible, effective supplement or even substitute for current LSVT® sessions.
This study describes the use of an LSVT-VT which is a multimedia computer system with a lifelike animated character named Marni. Marni interacts with a patient much like a human therapist to improve the quality and intelligibility of the patient’s speech during LSVT® tasks. We will describe the development of the LSVT-VT, technical challenges solved and patient experiences with the system. In addition to the clinical benefits and values, virtual therapy systems provide new opportunities for experimental studies that have the ability to systematically manipulate variables to investigate enhancements to treatment effectiveness.

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