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Speech Perception and Word Retrieval in
Alzheimer's Disease (AD): A Pilot Study

By: Jennifer Dennis
Mentor: Dr. Alejandro Brice


This research pilot project investigated speech and language related deficiencies in participants with and without Alzheimer's disease (AD). Information obtained from this study may lead to identification of early indicators of the disease that are not obtrusive. It was hypothesized that an individual with AD would still have storage of phonetic and lexical items, yet be unable to access them due to increased memory and processing demands (Bayles, Tomeoeda, & Trosset, 1992; Grossman & White, 1998). Participants consisted of one individual with Alzheimer's disease and a matched control without the disease. Neither participant had a prior history of speech or language problems and both were within age-appropriate limits for vision and hearing. The Alzheimer's disease was verified through use of the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Arizona Battery of Communication Disorders in Dementia (ABCD) criteria. In addition, the participant with AD showed early stages of the disease according to her medical records. The control participant was matched for age, socio-economic status (SES), education, monolingual English speaking abilities, and cultural background. The study used the following tests and procedures: the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Boston Naming Test (BNT), portions of the Arizona Battery of Communication Disorders in Dementia (ABCD), and a speech-perception gating task (Grossjean, 1996). The data were analyzed and reported using two-tailed t-tests and descriptively by comparing means. Significant differences were found between the participants on the gating measures of speech perception. Qualitative differences were found for the language tests. The hypothesis of impaired retrieval difficulties was supported. Further investigations with a larger sample are recommended.

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