According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, an estimated 50 million people worldwide were living with dementia in 2018. If no action is taken, this number could triple by 2050. As the aging population grows, the need for geriatric care will increase as well. Since language is very closely tied to cognitive function, we want to figure out if we can use language to predict -- and possibly prevent -- the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, if we learn more about the relationship between language and neurodegeneration, we could possibly come closer to understanding ways to recognize and prevent it. Knowing the signs of these disorders in advance could help reduce the number of people affected by these diseases in the future and give warning signs to the families of those at risk.
Before settling upon this topic, we considered a number of different options. First, we thought about studying language acquisition impairment in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We ended up not choosing this topic because many groups are already focusing on early development of language, which led us to consider researching its degeneration instead. The second idea that we had brought us closer to the one we ended up choosing. When we first started researching somniloquy, or sleep talking, we found several articles discussing how it can be a predictor of neurodegeneration. This helped us realize that neurodegeneration is a much larger issue than sleep talking, so we narrowed down our search to focus on neurodegenerative diseases. Very few studies have examined the role of language in predicting the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, despite the fact that language is so closely tied to cognitive function. In addition, it is difficult to study predictors of disease onset when subjects with neurodegenerative diseases are by default symptomatic.