People with a wide variety of neurological illnesses have distinctive language patterns that, investigators suspect, may serve as early warning signs of their diseases.
For the Alzheimer’s study, the researchers looked at a group of 80 men and women in their 80s — half had Alzheimer’s and the others did not. But, seven and a half years earlier, all had been cognitively normal.
The researchers examined the subjects’ word usage with an artificial intelligence program that looked for subtle differences in language. It identified one group of subjects who were more repetitive in their word usage at that earlier time when all of them were cognitively normal. These subjects also made errors, such as spelling words wrongly or inappropriately capitalizing them, and they used telegraphic language, meaning language that has a simple grammatical structure and is missing subjects and words like “the,” “is” and “are.”
The members of that group turned out to be the people who developed Alzheimer’s disease.
The A.I. program predicted, with 75 percent accuracy, who would get Alzheimer’s disease.
The hope is to extend the Alzheimer’s work to find subtle changes in language use by people with no obvious symptoms but who will go on to develop other neurological diseases.