Language differences as a risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Scientific title: Linguistic markers of risk for future Alzheimer’s disease

Type of project: Pilot study, with Professor Tess Fitzpatrick

What do we already know?

Previous research has shown that some people who develop Alzheimer’s disease in old age already have distinctive patterns in their language in early adulthood.

What is this project trying to find out?

This project aims to find out whether there are differences in the language of people at high and low genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Other biomarkers of risk (identified via brain scans, cerebral spinal fluid analysis, cognitive tests, etc.) will also be investigated to see if they correlate with any language differences.

How will they do this?

The data will come from unimpaired volunteers, aged 40-59, who are part of an existing research cohort for ‘PREVENT’ - a UK funded project that is collecting information about biomarkers and genetics in order to understand the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Participants will provide written answers to questions and complete linguistic tasks via an online survey. Their answers will then be analysed to measure factors including grammatical complexity, vocabulary choices and the density of ideas in the text.

Why is it important?

If language is established to be an indicator of susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease, it might in future be used for screening in place of more intrusive methods. Furthermore, if language processing behaviour is found to contribute causatively to risk of Alzheimer’s disease by influencing cognitive reserve, there is the possibility in future of developing preventative measures.

Further information

Please click here for more information about the work of Professor Alison Wray

Please click here for more information about the work of Professor Tess Fitzpatrick