Research Projects

Spoken Language Biomarkers of Cognitive Impairment in Neurodegenerative Disorders

This series of projects uses disease-specific features in spoken discourse to identify early disease states, individuals at increased risk for developing cognitive impairment, cognitive impairment progression, and treatment response.  Extracted features and discourse models are used to develop automated analysis algorithms for clinical use.


Parkinson’s disease – National Institutes of Health (NIDCD) grant to Dr. Roberts.

ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Vascular cognitive impairment, Alzheimer dementia, and frontotemporal dementia – in collaboration with the Ontario Brain Institute funded Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative

Huntington’s disease – in collaboration with Noelle Carlozzi and Emily Mower-Provost at the University of Michigan

In Parkinson’s disease speech treatment contexts – Examining how high vs. low effort treatments for speech and voice disorders in Parkinson’s disease impact speech errors and language production.

Wearable Sensors to Understand Speech, Swallowing, and Social Interaction Behaviors in Typical Aging and Dementia

Using a novel mechanoacoustic sensor developed at Northwestern University, studies explore the relationships between mobility, social interaction, speech and swallowing behaviors in real-world contexts in typical aging and dementia. Sensor validation study in progress at Northwestern University is funded by a National Institute on Aging (NIA) SBIR grant. In home, continuous trials with intermittent behavioral testing currently in progress in a collaboration with the University of Waterloo and the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disease Research Initiative.

Communication Partner Training – PD/Communication Partner Training – AD

Early stage clinical trial of dyad-based communication partner training programs in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer disease where partners and affected persons engage jointly to learn effective strategies for optimizing accuracy and efficiency of conversation exchanges.

Communication Bridge – A clinical trial of a telemedicine intervention in Primary Progressive Aphasia

Randomized control trial of a telemedicine speech-language pathology intervention for early to mid-stage primary progressive aphasia. Project in partnership with Emily Rogalski and the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University. Funded by a National Institutes of Aging R01 to Dr. Rogalski (Dr. Roberts, Co-I).

On-line Speech and Language Processing and Production in Parkinson’s Disease

Series of projects examining how individuals with Parkinson’s disease process and produce speech and language in real time including:

  • Eye tracking studies of action knowledge and thematic role integration during single word and sentence production (Katie Aveni, PhD student). Collaboration with Ken McRae at the University of Western Ontario and Arielle Borovsky at Purdue.
  • Error detection and conflict monitoring during speech production in Parkinson’s disease and the relationship with speech production and fluency errors (Stephanie Gutierrez, PhD student).

Characterizing Motor-Speech, Language, and Cognitive Impairments in Neurodegenerative Disorders, the Ontario Neurodegenerative Disorders Research Initiative (ONDRI)

Dr. Roberts is an Executive Committee Member and an Investigator on the ONDRI project funded by the Ontario Brain Institute.  She serves on the Neuropsychology and ONDRI@Home Platforms.

  • ONDRI is a longitudinal study.  The aim is to identify deep phenotypes (gait, neuroimaging, genetics, oculomotor, cognitive, language, motor speech, clinical) in ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular Cognitive Impairment, and frontotemporal dementia.  The ultimate aim is to identify a set of meaningful measures and features that both unify and distinguish disorder phenotypes.
  • ONDRI is now in Phase 2 and is focusing on translating knowledge gained in Phase 1 into health systems research and in-home monitoring of persons living with these diseases through wearable technology platforms.
  • ONDRI offers a number of opportunities for international collaborations and research projects for Dr. Roberts’ students.