Effects of speaking rate on variability of second formant frequency transitions in dysarthria

van Brenk, Fritz and Lowit, Anja and Tjaden, Kris (2023) Effects of speaking rate on variability of second formant frequency transitions in dysarthria. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica. ISSN 1021-7762 (https://doi.org/10.1159/000534337)

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Introduction: This study examined the utility of multiple second formant (F2) slope metrics to capture differences in speech production for individuals with dysarthria and healthy controls as a function of speaking rate. In addition, the utility of F2 slope metrics for predicting severity of intelligibility impairment in dysarthria was examined. Methods: Twenty three speakers with Parkinson’s disease and mild to moderate hypokinetic dysarthria (HD), 9 speakers with various neurological diseases and mild to severe ataxic or ataxic-spastic dysarthria (AD), and 26 age-matched healthy control speakers (CON) participated in a sentence repetition task. Sentences were produced at habitual, fast, and slow speaking rate. A variety of metrics were derived from the rising F2 transition portion of the diphthong /ai/. To obtain measures of intelligibility for the two clinical speaker groups, 15 undergraduate SLP students participated in a transcription experiment. Results: Significantly shallower slopes were found for the speakers with HD compared to control speakers. Steeper F2 slopes were associated with increased speaking rate for all groups. Higher variability in F2 slope metrics was found for the speakers with AD compared to the two other speaker groups. For both clinical speaker groups, there was a negative association between intelligibility and F2 slope variability metrics, indicating lower variability in speech production was associated with higher intelligibility. Discussion: F2 slope metrics were sensitive to dysarthria presence, dysarthria type, and speaking rate. The current study provided evidence that the use of F2 slope variability measures has additional value to F2 slope averaged measures for predicting severity of intelligibility impairment in dysarthria.