The aims of this study were to: (1) evaluate the perceptual speech dimensions, speech intelligibility and dysarthria severity of a group of individuals diagnosed with Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA); (2) determine the presence of subgroups within FRDA dysarthria; (3) investigate the relationship between the speech outcome and the clinical factors of disease progression. The study included 38 individuals (21 female, 17 male) with a confirmed diagnosis of FRDA. A group of 20 non-neurologically impaired individuals served as controls. Perceptual analysis, investigating 30 different dimensions of speech, was conducted on a speech sample obtained from each participant. In addition, the Assessment of Intelligibility of Dysarthria Speech was administered. All FRDA participants presented with dysarthria with severities ranging from mild to moderate. Cluster analysis revealed 3 subgroups, the first presenting with mild dysarthric symptoms, the second with increased velopharyngeal involvement and the third characterized by increased laryngeal dysfunction. Dysarthria severity showed a significant correlation to disease duration but to no other clinical measure. The findings support the notion of subgroups in FRDA dysarthria, representing distinct impairments of the speech mechanism and perhaps reflective of differing evolutions beyond the cerebellum.
- Friedreich's ataxia
- Perceptual analysis