Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Date of this Version



PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0154971


© 2016 Rong et al


Purpose To determine the mechanisms of speech intelligibility impairment due to neurologic impairments, intelligibility decline was modeled as a function of co-occurring changes in the articulatory, resonatory, phonatory, and respiratory subsystems.

Method Sixty-six individuals diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) were studied longitudinally. The disease-related changes in articulatory, resonatory, phonatory, and respiratory subsystems were quantified using multiple instrumental measures, which were subjected to a principal component analysis and mixed effects models to derive a set of speech subsystem predictors. A stepwise approach was used to select the best set of subsystem predictors to model the overall decline in intelligibility.

Results Intelligibility was modeled as a function of five predictors that corresponded to velocities of lip and jaw movements (articulatory), number of syllable repetitions in the alternating motion rate task (articulatory), nasal airflow (resonatory), maximum fundamental frequency (phonatory), and speech pauses (respiratory). The model accounted for 95.6%of the variance in intelligibility, among which the articulatory predictors showed the most substantial independent contribution (57.7%).

Conclusion Articulatory impairments characterized by reduced velocities of lip and jaw movements and resonatory impairments characterized by increased nasal airflow served as the subsystem predictors of the longitudinal decline of speech intelligibility in ALS. Declines in maximum performance tasks such as the alternating motion rate preceded declines in intelligibility, thus serving as early predictors of bulbar dysfunction. Following the rapid decline in speech intelligibility, a precipitous decline in maximum performance tasks subsequently occurred.