Acoustic Measures of Voice and Physiologic Measures of Autonomic Arousal During Speech as a Function of Cognitive Load in Older Adults

Defne Abur, Megan K MacPherson*, Adrianna C Shembel, Cara E Stepp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships among cognitive loading, autonomic arousal, and acoustic measures of voice in healthy older adults.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective and observational.

METHODS: Twelve healthy older adults (six females) produced a sentence containing an embedded Stroop task in each of two cognitive load conditions: congruent and incongruent. Three physiologic measures of autonomic arousal (pulse volume amplitude, pulse period, and skin conductance response amplitude) and four acoustic measures of voice (cepstral peak prominence, low-to-high spectral energy ratio, fundamental frequency, and sound pressure level) were analyzed in each cognitive load condition.

RESULTS: A logistic regression model was used to predict the cognitive load condition using participant as a categorical predictor and the four acoustic measures and three autonomic measures as continuous predictors. Skin conductance response amplitude and pulse volume amplitude were both predictive of cognitive load; however, no acoustic measures of voice were statistically significant predictors of cognitive load for older adults.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the idea that increased cognitive load is associated with increased autonomic nervous system activity in older adults. The lack of changes in acoustic measures of voice with increased cognitive load may result from age-related changes in vocal quality and speech subsystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date25-Jan-2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2023
Externally publishedYes

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