A systematic review and narrative analysis of digital speech biomarkers in Motor Neuron Disease

Molly Bowden, Emily Beswick, Johnny Tam, David Perry, Alice Smith, Judy Newton, Siddharthan Chandran, Oliver Watts, Suvankar Pal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is a progressive and largely fatal neurodegeneritve disorder with a lifetime risk of approximately 1 in 300. At diagnosis, up to 25% of people with MND (pwMND) exhibit bulbar dysfunction. Currently, pwMND are assessed using clinical examination and diagnostic tools including the ALS Functional Rating Scale Revised (ALS-FRS(R)), a clinician-administered questionnaire with a single item on speech intelligibility. Here we report on the use of digital technologies to assess speech features as a marker of disease diagnosis and progression in pwMND. Google Scholar, PubMed, Medline and EMBASE were systematically searched. 40 studies were evaluated including 3670 participants; 1878 with a diagnosis of MND. 24 studies used microphones, 5 used smartphones, 6 used apps, 2 used tape recorders and 1 used the Multi-Dimensional Voice Programme (MDVP) to record speech samples. Data extraction and analysis methods varied but included traditional statistical analysis, CSpeech, MATLAB and machine learning (ML) algorithms. Speech features assessed also varied and included jitter, shimmer, fundamental frequency, intelligible speaking rate, pause duration and syllable repetition. Findings from this systematic review indicate that digital speech biomarkers can distinguish pwMND from healthy controls and can help identify bulbar involvement in pwMND. Preliminary evidence suggests digitally assessed acoustic features can identify more nuanced changes in those affected by voice dysfunction. No one digital speech biomarker alone is consistently able to diagnose or prognosticate MND. Further longitudinal studies involving larger samples are required to validate the use of these technologies as diagnostic tools or prognostic biomarkers.
Original languageEnglish
Journalnpj Digital Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'A systematic review and narrative analysis of digital speech biomarkers in Motor Neuron Disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this