Speech rate mediated vowel and stop voicing distinctiveness in Parkinson's disease


Purpose: To quantify changes in acoustic distinctiveness in two groups of talkers with Parkinson’s disease as they modify across a wide range of speaking rates.

Method: People with Parkinson’s disease with and without deep brain stimulation and older healthy controls read 24 carrier phrases at different speech rates. Target nonsense words in the carrier phrases were designed to elicit stop consonants and corner vowels. Participants spoke at seven self-selected speech rates from very slow to very fast elicited via magnitude production. Speech rate was measured in absolute words-per-minute and as a proportion of each talker’s habitual rate. Measures of segmental distinctiveness included a temporal consonant measure, voice onset time, and spectral vowel measure, vowel articulation index.

Results: All talkers successfully modified their rate of speech from slow to fast. Talkers with Parkinson’s disease and deep brain stimulation demonstrated greater baseline speech impairment and produced smaller proportional changes at the fast end of the continuum. Increasingly slower speaking rates were associated with increased temporal contrasts (voice onset time) but not spectral contrasts (vowel articulation). Faster speech was associated with decreased contrasts in both domains. Talkers with deep brain stimulation demonstrated more aberrant productions across all speaking rates.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that temporal and spectral segmental distinctiveness are asymmetrically affected by speaking rate modifications in Parkinson’s disease. Talkers with deep brain stimulation warrant further investigation with regards to speech changes they make as they adjust their speaking rate.

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research (To appear)