Vieillissement des habiletés de perception et de production de la parole : comprendre les origines du déclin pour développer de nouvelles interventions

 

Pascale Tremblay

Centre de recherche de l'institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec [CRIUSMQ]

 

Domaine :   vieillissement

Programme chercheurs-boursiers - Junior 2

Concours 2017-2018

Canadians are living longer than ever before. At the 2010 census, older Canadians (65+ years) made up approximately 14% of the population; this number is expected to reach 30% within the next 25 years. Unfortunately for too many people those added years are not always experienced in good health. Up to 12% of senior adults experience communication difficulties. Amongst the difficulties experienced by elderly adults, a highly prevalent and disabling problem is a decline in the ability to recognize speech sounds, particularly in noisy environments. In addition, the ability to produce language also declines, becoming slower and often more laborious. Communication difficulties negatively affect quality of life, often leading to avoidance of social situations and isolation. Unfortunately, the causes of these difficulties are still unclear, but it has been shown that certain activities such as singing can prevent or delay deficits in speech perception and production.

The primary objective of my research program is to clarify, through five different studies, the causes of these difficulties and their consequences in day-to-day situations, as well as to develop behavioural and brain stimulation methods to improve communication in elderly adults. First, I will characterise speech perception and production deficits in singing and non-singing healthy older adults (40-90 years old). Next, I will use state-of-the-art brain imaging and brain stimulation techniques to identify the neural mechanisms that are responsible for these difficulties. In the last study, I will use non-invasive brain stimulation methods to modulate brain functioning and improve communication in healthy elderly adults and in adults with speech dysfunctions. My research program will generate knowledge that will be critical for developing new rehabilitation interventions to prevent, slow down or reverse age-related speech difficulties. Ultimately, senior Canadians will be benefactors of speech rehabilitation therapy services tailored to their specific needs.