ADDF presents vision of a consortium to accelerate research into speech and language biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease

January 05, 2021

NEW YORK, NY (1/5/2021) - Subtle changes in speech and language can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer's -- sometimes appearing long before other more serious symptoms. The challenge is recognizing these changes and determining what may signal Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative disorders. In a commentary in (November 24, 2020), Alzheimer's experts lay out a vision for a worldwide research consortium that can give clinicians - and patients - these answers in the form of digital biomarkers.

"Rapidly expanding use of smart devices, such as smart phones and digital wearables, is making it easier than ever to collect large amounts of speech and language data," says lead author Nicole Bjorklund, Ph.D., of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF). "What we need now is a unified approach for collecting, analyzing and sharing this information to create algorithms that can predict who will go on to develop Alzheimer's."

Dr. Bjorklund and Shobha Purushothama, Ph.D., a commentary co-author, are manager and senior director, respectively, of the ADDF's

The commentary lays out a plan for creating a comprehensive, harmonized, open-access speech and language sample repository. To maximize its usefulness, this repository needs to include a diverse cohort of subjects representing different accents, languages, and verbal communication components. It should also include samples from people at different disease stages and include healthy controls with and without dementia risk factors for comparison. Samples also need to be collected from the same patients over time so researchers can develop biomarkers that can monitor disease progression.

"By combining the strength of experts in dementia research, linguistics, data analytics, and clinical trials, we can generate a gold standard data set," says co-author Lampros Kourtis, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor at Tufts University and managing director of Circadic. "We can then comb through this data to find the patterns consistent with early signs of disease."

Co-author Kristina Malzbender, associate director of Health and Life Sciences at Gates Ventures, which partners with the ADDF on the Diagnostics Accelerator, says another key to the repository's usefulness depends on researchers' ability to access and analyze the data while maintaining patient privacy and data security. "We are optimistic that generating this type of high-quality data would be incredibly enabling for the field. In particular, approaches to data privacy are continually evolving and best practices should be implemented, revisited and refined when appropriate as the repository takes shape."

"Lightning-fast advances in data science, coupled with a greater understanding than ever about dementia, are opening up new and exciting avenues of research," says Howard Fillit, M.D., ADDF founding executive director and chief science officer. "The ADDF knows the value of partnerships--we employ them in our funding model and they're just as valuable in research. Alone, researchers have not been able to take full advantage of the opportunities digital technology afford, but together we can facilitate truly seismic shifts in neurodegeneration research."
About the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF)

Founded in 1998 by Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation is dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease. The ADDF is the only public charity solely focused on funding the development of drugs for Alzheimer's, employing a venture philanthropy model to support research in academia and the biotech industry. Through the generosity of its donors, the ADDF has awarded over $150 million to fund more than 626 Alzheimer's drug discovery programs and clinical trials in 19 countries. To learn more, please visit:

About the Diagnostics Accelerator (DxA)

The Diagnostics Accelerator, created in July 2018, is a partnership of funders with funding commitments totaling $50 million over three years from partners including ADDF Co-Founder Leonard A. Lauder, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott, the Dolby family, the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, among others, to develop novel biomarkers for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation

Related Language Articles from Brightsurf:

Learning the language of sugars
We're told not to eat too much sugar, but in reality, all of our cells are covered in sugar molecules called glycans.

How effective are language learning apps?
Researchers from Michigan State University recently conducted a study focusing on Babbel, a popular subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, to see if it really worked at teaching a new language.

Chinese to rise as a global language
With the continuing rise of China as a global economic and trading power, there is no barrier to prevent Chinese from becoming a global language like English, according to Flinders University academic Dr Jeffrey Gil.

'She' goes missing from presidential language
MIT researchers have found that although a significant percentage of the American public believed the winner of the November 2016 presidential election would be a woman, people rarely used the pronoun 'she' when referring to the next president before the election.

How does language emerge?
How did the almost 6000 languages of the world come into being?

New research quantifies how much speakers' first language affects learning a new language
Linguistic research suggests that accents are strongly shaped by the speaker's first language they learned growing up.

Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.

Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.

Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.

Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.

Read More: Language News and Language Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to