Voice alteration is known to be associated with depression and a potential clinical marker of the major depressive episode (MDE). Depressed patients also seem to have neuropsychological functions impairment that could be involved to these voice disorders.
Objective: The main objective is to assess prosodics and acoustic characteristics of depressive patients’ voice and to determine if these variables are related to an executive or attentional deficit.
This an observational case-control study carried out between 2020 and 2021.
Assessments were performed during in depth neurophysiological assessment realized in our recourse center for psychiatric and neurological diseases.
27 patients underwent a voice and neuropsychological evaluation during their standard clinical evaluation and gave their consent to the use of their clinical data. Eleven patients were 2 excluded because they matched exclusion criteria. Eight patients presented a MDE and constituted the “”depressive”” group. The other patients (n = 8) constituted the “”control”” group.
Intervention: Assessment was performed using two automated protocol (MonPaGe and the Test of Attentional Performance 2.1.3). Acoustic and phonetic analysis and measurements were processed with Praat.
Voice characteristics (prosody and acoustics features), neuropsychological functions (working memory, divided attention and flexibility).
Results: Depressive patients presented significantly less spectral variability of their fundamental frequency when they said a sentence without instructions about intonation. They also showed a significant correlation between a slowed flow in diadochokinesis tasks and a high number of errors in working memory tasks Depressive and control were similar on the other voice features.
Conclusion: Despite the small number of subjects and low statistical power, our pilot study showed a correlation between working memory impairment and the rate of diadochocinesis, which raises the question of an impairment of central executive functions. The difference in the 3 decrease in spectral variability when patients speak without or with constraint goes against an explanation by the PMR and questions the possible implication of an impairment of the motivational system on speech production. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and clarify the relationships of each of these dimensions of depression.