Telephone-based Dementia Screening I: Automated Semantic Verbal Fluency Assessment

Johannes Tröger; Nicklas Linz; Alexandra König; Philippe Robert; Jan Alexandersson
In: Proceedings of the 12th EAI International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare. International ICST Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare (Pervasive Health-2018), May 21-24, New York, USA, ACM, 2018.


Dementia has a large economic impact on our society as cost-effective population-wide screening for early signs of dementia is still an unsolved medical supply resource problem. A solution should be fast, require a minimum of external material, and automatically indicate potential persons at risk of cognitive decline. Despite encouraging results, leveraging pervasive sensing technologies for automatic dementia screening, there are still two main issues: significant hardware costs or installation efforts and the challenge of effective pattern recognition. Conversely, automatic speech recognition (ASR) and speech analysis have reached sufficient maturity and allow for low-tech remote telephone-based screening scenarios. Therefore, we examine the technologic feasibility of automatically assessing a neuropsychological test---Semantic Verbal Fluency (SVF)--via a telephone-based solution. We investigate its suitability for inclusion into an automated dementia frontline screening and global risk assessment, based on concise telephone-sampled speech, ASR and machine learning classification. Results are encouraging showing an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.85. We observe a relatively low word error rate of 33% despite phone-quality speech samples and a mean age of 77 years of the participants. The automated classification pipeline performs equally well compared to the classifier trained on manual transcriptions of the same speech data. Our results indicate SVF as a prime candidate for inclusion into an automated telephone-screening system.

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