Background: There is a need for fast, accessible, low-cost, and accurate diagnostic methods for early detection of cognitive decline. Dementia diagnoses are usually made years after symptom onset, missing a window of opportunity for early intervention.
Objective: To evaluate the use of recorded voice features as proxies for cognitive function by using neuropsychological test measures and existing dementia diagnoses.
Methods: This study analyzed 170 audio recordings, transcripts, and paired neuropsychological test results from 135 participants selected from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), which includes 97 recordings of cognitively normal participants and 73 recordings of cognitively impaired participants. Acoustic and linguistic features of the voice samples were correlated with cognitive performance measures to verify their association.
Results: Language and voice features, when combined with demographic variables, performed with an AUC of 0.942 (95% CI 0.929–0.983) in predicting cognitive status. Features with good predictive power included the acoustic features mean spectral slope in the 500–1500Hz band, variation in the F2 bandwidth, and variation in the Mel-Frequency Cepstral Coefficient (MFCC) 1; the demographic features employment, education, and age; and the text features of number of words, number of compound words, number of unique nouns, and number of proper names.
Conclusion: Several linguistic and acoustic biomarkers show correlations and predictive power with regard to neuropsychological testing results and cognitive impairment diagnoses, including dementia. This initial study paves the way for a follow-up comprehensive study incorporating the entire FHS cohort.