Language is a fundamental window into neurodegeneration. Beyond primary progressive aphasia, distinct linguistic impairments are seen in most cases of typical Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, and behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia. Such deficits can occur in early and prodromal stages, discriminate among diseases, and predict symptom severity. Also, they can be captured through sensitive, culturally adequate tools, some of which (e.g., automated speech assessments) are more affordable and scalable than standard screening and diagnostic tests. Thus, language measures represent powerful, equitable resources to identify and monitor persons with neurodegenerative diseases. Yet, existing work is biased in its language coverage, with little work done with non-English speakers. More worryingly, most research is based on ad hoc protocols from individual teams, precluding standardization of best practices, harmonization of scalable tasks, and detection of cross-linguistic and language-specific markers. This isolationism widens the gap among high-, middle-, and low-income countries, as those with more resources are better equipped to produce results solely relevant to their respective languages. To face these challenges, I intend to create and lead the International Network for Cross-Linguistic Research on Brain Health (INCLUDE), a multicentric initiative to reveal cross-linguistic markers of neurodegenerative diseases (and, prospectively, other neural disorders).
This project aims to create an international network to discover cross-linguistic markers of neural disorders. Over two years, I aim to
- Establish INCLUDE,
- Leverage the network towards multicentric research (including an initial cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal study on AD), and
- Disseminate its vision and members' work. This is a highly scalable project, leading to multinational grants and potential donor support. Emphasis will be placed on obtaining funds for low-income Latin American countries, creating synergy with sites from middle-and high-income ones.