Speech characteristics associated with three genotypes of ataxia

John J. Sidtis, Ji Sook Ahn, Christopher Gomez, Diana Sidtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Advances in neurobiology are providing new opportunities to investigate the neurological systems underlying motor speech control. This study explores the perceptual characteristics of the speech of three genotypes of spino-cerebellar ataxia (SCA) as manifest in four different speech tasks. Methods: Speech samples from 26 speakers with SCA were perceptually rated by experienced listeners. The genotypes were: SCA1, SCA5, or SCA6. The speech tasks were: diadochokinesis, word repetition, sentence reading, and picture description. The speech samples were rated using two sets of dimensions characterized as primary (e.g., articulation, rate, and rhythm) or secondary (e.g., imprecise consonants, excess and equal stress, and harsh voice). Results: On primary dimensions, SCA6 was the most impaired generally. Articulation was the most severely affected dimension and the diadochokinesis task was most effective in revealing speech impairments. On secondary dimensions, picture description was the task most likely to produce abnormal speech. The SCA groups shared articulatory problems but differed with respect to abnormal voice features. Conclusions: These results support previous characterizations of ataxic dysarthria, and provide further information about the speech characteristics of genetic subtypes. Task demands affect perceptual ratings. Voice characteristics may be key to differentiating ataxic subtypes. As the genetic disorders that affect speech become better understood, more detailed characterizations of motor control systems should emerge.Learning outcomes The reader will: (1) be able to recognize the principle characteristics of ataxia; (2) recognize that not all speech tasks are equally sensitive to ataxic dysarthria; (3) recognize that voice quality changes may play an important role in recognizing different genetic types of ataxia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-492
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Ataxia
  • Dysarthria
  • Genotype
  • Perceptual rating
  • SCA1
  • SCA5
  • SCA6

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


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