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Advancing ALS research with speech acoustics: Meet Postdoctoral Fellow Liziane Bouvier

Written by Samantha Sexton

As a caregiver for her grandmother, Liziane Bouvier, PhD, witnessed first-hand how devastating the progressive loss of communication abilities in neurodegenerative disease can be.

“This experience confirmed my interest in healthcare, communication disorders and aging.”

Dr. Bouvier is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Bulbar Function Lab at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), under the supervision of scientist Dr. Yana Yunusova.

Her speech acoustics research is helping to advance early detection and monitoring of bulbar signs in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive and debilitating neurodegenerative disease. June is ALS Awareness Month.

The onset of bulbar dysfunction, which includes symptoms such as speech and swallowing difficulties, marks a turning point in the progression of ALS as the development of these symptoms are associated with a reduction in quality of life and life expectancy.

“The development of effective assessment tools targeting bulbar dysfunction in ALS is urgently needed to improve timely access to clinical care, intervention strategies and clinical trials.”

Dr. Bouvier’s research uses speech recordings and machine learning to develop artificial intelligence (AI)-based technologies for the early detection and tracking of bulbar ALS. Similar work has been done among English-speaking populations, and her goal is to develop the world’s first AI-based diagnostic algorithm for Quebec French, to help with the early detection of bulbar ALS in the French-speaking population.

“By developing this tool, I hope to help reduce the existing gaps in knowledge and care between English and French speakers.”

The Bulbar Function lab at SRI provides the ideal setting to execute this study, which leverages deep strengths in AI, machine learning and acoustic analyses of speech. The close collaborations of the lab with nation-wide and international ALS clinics are also helping advance the project.

“Research in the field of ALS is of particular interest to me because it allows me to combine many of my research interests — to collaborate closely with healthcare professionals, to contribute to the establishment of better health care access, assessment and care, and to improve the quality of life for patients,” explains Dr. Bouvier.

“Helping families better understand and facilitate care for their loved ones with neurodegenerative disease is at the heart of my motivation to do this research.”

About the author

Samantha Sexton

Samantha is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook Research Institute.

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