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Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurological condition that affects motor neurons in the brain, brainstem and spinal cord, affecting the control of skeletal muscles for speech, chewing and swallowing. There are two variants of MND, with symptoms typically arising first in either the limbs (spinal onset) or the head and neck region (bulbar onset). Reduced survival and poorer quality of life are associated with onset of symptoms affecting speech and swallowing, yet there is a lack of sensitive markers to determine rate of bulbar decline. This article describes a study of 31 people with MND (seven with bulbar MND and 24 with spinal MND) comparing them to 17 people without MND on a speech and chewing task that examined both speed and range of movement on these tasks. Results demonstrated that people with MND chew faster but speak more slowly than people without MND. Additionally, speed of speech distinguished between the MND variants; people with more affected speech were slower than those without. This demonstrates that speed of speaking and chewing may be useful markers in diagnostic staging of the disease process and could enable people with MND and their families to plan for future nutritional and communication changes.

Detecting Bulbar Motor Involvement in ALS: Comparing speech and chewing tasks.
Wilson EM, Kulkarni M, Simione M, et al.
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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