Prosody variations for improving the cognitive response and the communicative interaction between Alzheimer patients and their caregivers
Goal: Alzheimer's is one of the most widespread diseases in our society. This disease affects the patient's standard of living and their environment. One of the most evident problems occurs in the social interaction and in the communication they establish with their caregivers. Some studies have shown the importance of a satisfactory communicative interaction to improve the relationship between caregivers and patients. From this perspective, some communication guidelines have been recommended to improve the interaction between patients/relatives and caregivers. Prosody, the way of speaking, composed of intonation, accent and speech rate, has only been recently studied. How individuals say something is as relevant as what they say. The most recent studies are focusing on analyzing the prosodic variations these patients use when talking to determine how these changes are affected by the disease and whether they can be used to diagnose Alzheimer's. Another set of studies is analyzing the degree of recognition of emotions of these patients based on prosody variations. However, there are not studies that analyze whether Alzheimer patients are sensitive to prosody variations and, if so, whether the ways in which caregivers speak to them may improve their communicative interaction. Therefore, the main objective of this multidisciplinary project is to analyze whether several prosodic strategies can improve the cognitive response and the communicative interaction between the Alzheimer's disease patients (AD) and their caregivers. In other words, the study aims at assessing how a variety of instructions delivered with different prosodic variations is cognitively processed by patients to enhance their attention, motivation, comprehension, and emotional state. To do this, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be applied. The qualitative methods will assess the caregivers' needs and impressions about their relationship with patients through tests, interviews, and focus groups. The quantitative ones will measure the cognitive response of AD patients: their attention, activation, and emotional response. This response will be analyzed by measuring the psychophysiological reaction: heart rate, electrodermal activity, and electromyography. A video game with tasks will also be designed to measure the motivation and comprehension of the instructions that these patients receive. The experiment will be applied to two different groups of participants: the first one with Alzheimer's patients and the control group with elder people. If the AD patients respond to prosody variations, and we can improve their attention, motivation, comprehension, and emotional status, the results, in addition to showing the importance of prosody in the disease, will contribute to a) implement an Alzheimer's Caregiver Training about how to speak to patients and b) to create a tool, a video game, which can measure the prosody response of Alzheimer's patients.