Predicting mild cognitive impairment from spontaneous spoken utterances

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104 Scopus citations


Introduction Trials in Alzheimer's disease are increasingly focusing on prevention in asymptomatic individuals. We hypothesized that indicators of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may be present in the content of spoken language in older adults and be useful in distinguishing those with MCI from those who are cognitively intact. To test this hypothesis, we performed linguistic analyses of spoken words in participants with MCI and those with intact cognition participating in a clinical trial. Methods Data came from a randomized controlled behavioral clinical trial to examine the effect of unstructured conversation on cognitive function among older adults with either normal cognition or MCI ( NCT01571427). Unstructured conversations (but with standardized preselected topics across subjects) were recorded between interviewers and interviewees during the intervention sessions of the trial from 14 MCI and 27 cognitively intact participants. From the transcription of interviewees recordings, we grouped spoken words using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), a structured table of words, which categorizes 2500 words into 68 different word subcategories such as positive and negative words, fillers, and physical states. The number of words in each LIWC word subcategory constructed a vector of 68 dimensions representing the linguistic features of each subject. We used support vector machine and random forest classifiers to distinguish MCI from cognitively intact participants. Results MCI participants were distinguished from those with intact cognition using linguistic features obtained by LIWC with 84% classification accuracy which is well above chance 60%. Discussion Linguistic analyses of spoken language may be a powerful tool in distinguishing MCI subjects from those with intact cognition. Further studies to assess whether spoken language derived measures could detect changes in cognitive functions in clinical trials are warrented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia: Translational Research and Clinical Interventions
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Biomarkers
  • Conversational interactions
  • Early identification
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • Social markers
  • Speech characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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