IFMA Preventive Health Management Inc.

Institute for Medical Advancement

New York, USA


Speech Abnormalities

Using speech samples of 100 patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar illness and major depression, we addressed the question of the extent to which the linguistic abnormalities in the speech of these patients represent diagnosis-specific characteristics, or constitute independent, syndrome-like dimensions of the illnesses. All speech samples were transcribed by a professional linguist who was blind to both identity and diagnosis of the patients. The majority of the deviant linguistic variables was found to be common to all three diagnostic groups under comparison, while only a few linguistic variables exhibited statistically significant between-group differences.

Linguistically Deviant Speech

The variety of subtle between-group differences allowed us, when the respective variables were analysed as a multivariate entity, to discriminate between the diagnostic groups at an overall performance of 72.7% correctly classified patients. There was an almost complete lack of association between linguistic abnormalities and psychopathology syndromes. In particular, we found no correlation between the syndrome "formal thought disorder" and the large variety of linguistic variables used in this investigation. In consequence, we conjecture that linguistically deviant speech characteristics represent an independent syndrome complex manifested at varying intensities across mental illnesses, and that this syndrome complex deserves greater attention not only with respect to the principal understanding of the underlying disturbances, but also as a potential target of therapeutical intervention.

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vSpacer Characteristic variability of spectral intensities among depressive patients
Characteristic variability of spectral intensities among depressive patients ("intonation"). The variations of spectral intensities are plotted along the y-axis on log-proportional scales and as a function of frequency (x-axis: 7 octaves covering the frequency range of 64-8192Hz).
Please note: Depression significantly reduces the dynamic expressiveness of human voices, thus greatly reducing inter-individual differences. As a direct consequence, the patients' voices become more similar to each other ("depressive voice"). Voices regain their distinct individuality during recovery.
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