Quick Project Snapshot

Motor Speech Disorders in Degenerative Brain Disease


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is the second most common form of younger onset dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. There are three different forms of FTD, the most common being the behavioural variant (bvFTD), which affects behaviour and social cognition. Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a form of language onset dementia, which includes the remaining two FTD subtypes: semantic PPA (svPPA) and non-fluent PPA (nfvPPA). Another form of PPA, the logopenic variant (lvPPA), is typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Motor speech is a term used to describe the muscle movements used while speaking. Impaired motor speech is considered to be one of two core diagnostic features in nfvPPA and is usually not affected in svPPA and lvPPA. A high rate of speech changes has been reported in bvFTD; however, these changes have not been fully characterised.

Some people with FTD or PPA can develop motor speech impairments associated with other syndromes, such as motor-neurone disease and progressive supranuclear palsy. These syndromes commonly have a poorer prognosis. Comprehensive characterisation of the motor speech impairments in FTD and PPA will, therefore, aid the diagnostic process and assist in monitoring disease progression.


1. Comprehensively characterise the speech of individuals with various subtypes of PPA and FTD;

2. Commence a longitudinal study seeking to identify specific speech acoustic correlates that change as a function of disease progression;

3. Demonstrate the potential use of acoustic analysis for tracking changes in people’s speech;

4. Examine how changes to speech are associated with regions of brain atrophy measured with high resolution volumetric MRI.


Patients with FTD or PPA will undertake a speech assessment which will be examined perceptually by expert raters. Participants’ speech will also be recorded for analysis of acoustic features, such as vowel articulation, rate, prosody, and voice quality. Comparisons will be made between groups, and against a control group of healthy people. Acoustic speech measures will also be examined for correlation with measures of brain atrophy taken from their MRI scans.


Participants have been recruited and speech data have been collected and analysed both perceptually and acoustically. Findings are currently being prepared for publication.


Brodtmann, A., Pemberton, H., Darby, D., & Vogel, A.P. (2016). Diagnostic distortions: a case report of progressive apraxia of speech. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 53 (1), 79-83.

Conference presentations:

Poole M. L, Brodtmann A., Darby D. and Vogel A. P. (2016). ‘Quantification of motor speech in primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia’ accepted for presentation at the 10th International Conference on Frontotemporal Dementias, Munich, Germany.

Poole M, Brodtmann A, Pemberton H, Low E, Darby D & Vogel AP (2015). Motor speech deficits in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Front. Hum. Neurosci. Conference Abstract: XII International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON-XII). doi:10.3389/conf.fnhum.2015.217.00396

Poole M. L., Brodtmann A., Darby D. and Vogel A. P. (2015). ‘A systematic review of motor speech and neuroimaging in frontotemporal dementia and primary progressive aphasia’ presented at Neuroscience 2015: Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, USA.

Poole M. L., Brodtmann A, Darby D., and Vogel A. P. (2015). 'Objective monitoring of dysarthria in FTD-MND: a case study’ presented at the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language, Chicago, USA.

Project Collaborators:

A collaboration between The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Monash University, Eastern Health, Matthew Poole and Dr Adam Vogel.

Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

In the Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, we study network degeneration following brain injury (e.g., ischaemic stroke) and have a particular interest in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment both in aging and in a range of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The latter is the most common cause of dementia in the western world and is associated with profound impairments in cognition and activities of daily living. Our research seeks to investigate neuroimaging correlates of cognitive decline; the effects of post-stroke exercise interventions on brain volume and cognitive function; and the accuracy and accessibility of imaging modalities in the diagnosis of dementia.  The ultimate goal of our research is to increase our understanding of two of the major causes of death, disability, and reduced quality of life in our society: dementia and stroke. Our team is headed by Associate Professor Amy Brodtmann, stroke and cognitive neurologist, Director of the Eastern Cognitive Disorders Clinic, and Heart Foundation Research Fellow.

We are collaborating with dementia and stroke researchers, clinicians, and neuroscientists, in Australia, and overseas, including Professor Martin Dichgans and Dr Marco During of the DEMDAS study in Munich Germany, Professor Charles DeCarli at the University of California Davis in the US, and Professor Vladimir Hachinski at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. These researchers are experts in their respective fields.

Our primary interest is to understand whether stroke and ischaemic brain injury cause neurodegeneration. This is currently being investigated in one of our major research projects, the NHMRC-funded, Cognition and Neocortical Volume After Stroke (CANVAS) Study, which is now in its fifth year of data collection.  In this study, stroke participants undergo an MRI scan and cognitive assessment within a few weeks of their events, and again, 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years later. By comparing their results with a healthy, age-matched control group with no history of stroke or dementia, we can determine whether brain volume change is associated with post-stroke dementia and elucidate potential causal mechanisms, including genetic markers, amyloid deposition and vascular risk factors.

Another interest of our lab is to examine the association between exercise and rates of brain volume loss and cognitive decline after stroke.  In the Post Ischaemic Stroke Cardiovascular Exercise Study (PISCES), we seek to determine whether aerobic exercise after stroke is associated with preservation of brain volume and function, cognition, and greater physical and psychological well-being. One of the most important elements of this research study is its translatable novelty – our data will contribute to an applicable intervention-based approach.

All Projects by this Lab

Network disruptions following brain infarction: cognition, behaviour and regional brain volume changeIs stroke neurodegenerative? A longitudinal study of changes in brain volume and cognition after stroke (CANVAS: Cognition And Neocortical Volume After Stroke)Evaluating Imaging Methods in Dementia (TIMID)Motor Speech Disorders in Degenerative Brain DiseaseBereavement and Grief in Neurodegenerative Disease (BAGINS)Post Ischaemic Stroke Cardiovascular Exercise Study (PISCES)

Melbourne Dementia Research Centre

The Melbourne Dementia Research Centre is a joint collaboration between the University of Melbourne and The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and has a charter to transform research in Dementia.

The Centre seeks to achieve real outcomes for people living with dementia by developing new and better diagnostics, and discovering novel treatment possibilities.

The Centre is a truly multidisciplinary hub of research that spans from basic laboratory research all the way through to human clinical trials.

Through its network of global collaborators, the Centre exists at the forefront of the latest developments in the field.

The Centre is led by Professor Ashley Bush, a world leader in dementia research and Australia’s most highly cited neuroscientist. Director Bush is supported by the Leadership Board comprising Professor Patricia Desmond, Associate Professor Amy Brodtmann, and Dr. Scott Ayton.

All Labs that operate in this Division

Clinical Cognitive Neuroscience LaboratoryOxidation Biology UnitVascular Neurodegeneration Research Laboratory