The effect of levodopa and fatigue on dysarthric speech of Slovenian Parkinson's disease patients

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, affecting millions of people. It is primarily a motor disorder, presenting with motor symptoms such as tremor and problems with gait, however PD patients also often face speech problems, also known as hypokinetic dysarthria. Symptoms of the latter include monopitch, monoloudness, imprecise articulation of vowels and consonants, diminished prosody, and a breathy, harsh voice. While there is no cure for PD, the drug that is used for treating and relieving motor symptoms is levodopa. However, it is currently unclear how exactly levodopa affects speech, as previous studies have shown both detrimental and beneficial effects. 

The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of levodopa and fatigue on several speech parameters, including two measures of vowel articulation (vowel space area and vowel articulation index) and two measures of voice quality (fundamental frequency and cepstral peak prominence smoothed). 10 native speakers of Slovenian, namely 6 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 4 healthy controls, recorded their speech with a headset microphone on twenty occasions, performing four tasks each time.

The results indicate that, compared to healthy control speakers, PD patients show no significant differences in the measured acoustic parameters, although there is a trend towards a smaller triangular vowel space area and lower vowel articulation index, indicating reduced vowels’ articulation, as well as lower measures of cepstral peak prominence and lower fundamental frequency, indicating pathological voice quality. Group does not significantly affect speech (p = 0.54, d = -0.5), however gender does (p < 0.001, d = -8.4). When analysing the effect of levodopa on speech of PD patients, there were no significant differences between OFF and ON states (p = 0.6, d = 0.04) nor between OFF, 1 hour and 2 hours after intake (p = 0.57, d = 0.04). No other variables, including fatigue, time of day or task, significantly affected the measured acoustic parameters. There is large individual variability across subjects for all measures. The results of the present study have implications for future studies, as they highlight the importance of studying the speech of PD patients at more than one moment in time, choosing a homogenous sample of PD patients and finding age- and gender-matched healthy control speakers.

The full thesis can be found here.

Potential interactions of Slovenian speech prosody and Slovenian folksong

Language and music are fundamental parts of the human experience and as such also engender ample interest among researchers, but there remains a lack of comparisons between the general properties of a specific language and its musical tradition. This article examines the prosody of Slovene speech and the melodic and rhythmic properties of the Slovene folk song. The authors focus on the Slovene language due to its unique position bordering four different language groups (i.e., Romance, Germanic, Slavic, and Uralic), but also because they wish to introduce a new way of looking at Slovene language and folk music by showing how they can be connected. After introducing the ways that the language-music connection can be studied, including previous empirical research on different languages and their music, the article reviews literature on the topic of the Slovene language, speech prosody, and folk song.

The study’s findings show that there is, indeed, a potential connection between tonemicity and interval range, predictability of word stress, and rhythmic accent, and different dialects and their musical traditions. Specifically, Slovene speech has an unpredictable stress and shows asymmetry in musical stress, the pitch-accent dialects of Slovene show a specific interval range not present in non-tonemic dialects, and border region speech and music have unique characteristics compared to other regions. The article reaches the conclusion that there are two main directions for future research. On the one hand, it is possible to continue doing research on the topic of the Slovene language and include comparisons with the neighbouring countries. This could significantly contribute to our understanding of how musical and linguistic characteristics spread and change. On the other hand, it is crucial to gain information on the prosodic and melodic properties of as many languages and musical traditions as possible, because only then will we be able to find direct and reliable patterns.

Backstage pass: Behind the scenes of the music documentary

Analysing the driving forces that construct music documentaries

Music documentaries are one of the most popular documentary genres but they are also a complex hybrid media form that has to navigate the complicated landscape of documentaries and the music industry. Music documentaries aren’t just documentaries, they also follow other goals such as profit, marketing and building the artist’s brand. The thesis investigates the driving forces behind music documentaries to establish them as a complex product of today’s society. In order to achieve this, the thesis adopted a practical perspective of music industry and business, strengthened by theory on documentary. First, a music documentary corpus was created to identify patterns in music documentaries as a form as well as to create a potential typology of music documentaries. Second, based on the theoretical framework and corpus, a music documentary research model was designed, illustrating five driving forces: documentary tradition, artist, audience, societal context, and film production. Finally, five sample music documentaries were thoroughly analysed with visual textual and contextual analysis. The results showed that documentaries focused on famous artists are by far the most popular and that the most prevalent genres remain pop and rock, closely followed by metal and punk. Music documentaries are lucrative and thus popular with filmmakers, even though they are often partially driven by producers who are connected to the subject in some way. Fans are often the most enthusiastic viewers of music documentaries but they remain critical and speak out if they feel information about the subject has been ignored or obscured. Additionally, the music industry and in particular record companies have interest in music documentaries because they can help drive sales and market artists. These results, among others, show that music documentaries are a multifaceted product that perform more roles than just entertain the masses.