Alzheimer's Dementia

Influence of prosody when speaking with persons who have Alzheimer’s

Prosody is the study of rhythm, intonation, stress, and related attributes in speech.

So, does the pitch and loudness of your voice influence your success in communicating with your demented grandmother? Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver wanted to know.

First, the details.

  • The effects of prosody (pitch and loudness) on successful or unsuccessful conversations with spouses who have Alzheimer’s disease were studied.
  • Acoustic analyses were conducted to calculate the fundamental frequency (pitch) and intensity (loudness) of caregivers’ speech.

And, the results.

  • There were no significant overall differences between the caregivers’ pitch and loudness in either successful or unsuccessful conversations.
  • However, for 1 subgroup of caregivers, an increase in pitch variation and loudness was associated with unsuccessful communication.
  • For another subgroup the opposite pattern was observed — reduced pitch variation and loudness with unsuccessful communication.

The bottom line?
So, overall there’s no effect. But there might be under certain circumstances.

We’ll have to read the article to learn more.

11/18/09 21:39 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.