Research project related to LiRI

Novel ways of preventing age‐related cognitive decline: Identifying the role of speech processing deficits in Alzheimer’s disease


Switzerland as one of the countries with the oldest population on earth faces tremendous challenges dealing with the health care and societal costs of the high prevalence of Alzheimer’s dementia (AD). With the predicted increases in AD-prevalence in the next few years in Switzerland and around the world, researchers are at a crucial point understanding that AD-research needs to broaden the focus from AD-treatment to AD-prevention. In this line of thinking, a recent key paper (Livingston et al., 2017) has argued that a significant decrease of AD-prevalence may be achieved by identifying and treating modifiable AD-risk factors.

Dr. Giroud’s research program will identify novel ways to assess and characterize conditions associated with a modifiable risk factor which has been estimated to have the highest potential impact on AD-risk reduction, namely age-related hearing loss, which is highly prevalent among older adults. Using neuroimaging techniques with high temporal resolution such as the electroencephalogram (EEG), neural processes during the auditory processing of complex sounds (e.g. human speech carrying linguistic information) will be investigated in real-time in older adults who are at risk for developing AD or who have already received an AD-diagnosis. The results will provide key insights into basic scientific questions regarding the neurobiology of aging and the neurobiology of language as well as outline methods for measuring hearing impairment for clinical purposes.

This ambitious and promising research program will benefit from the unique setting of expertise and research infrastructure related to the LiRI platform (e.g. modern data recording labs, data management platforms, unique interdisciplinary research teams offering expertise in phonetics, neurolinguistics, syntax, and psycholinguistics).

As part of the two below mentioned grants, Dr. Giroud’s research will be performed using a state-of-the-art stationary EEG system, an ABR system, and an isolated sound-proof cabin for the recording of the electrophysiological data and the performance of the hearing tasks provided by the LiRI platform. Furthermore, in order to record the stimulus material, she will need access to sound-proof cabins to record voice-material using microphones as well as facial voice cues using video cameras.

Nathalie Giroud is currently postdoctoral researcher at Concordia University CN, working on “The Sensory and Cognitive Interface in Mild Cognitively Impaired Older Adults As Revealed By Multimodal Neuroimaging”, a project funded by the SNSF with an Early Postdoc.Mobility grant (nr 174865).

Grants awarded to Dr. Giroud as PI associated with the current proposal:

  1. Postdoc-Forschungskredit University of Zurich, title: “Preventing age-related cognitive decline: The role of speech processing deficits in dementia”, Nr. FK-19-072, period: August 1st 2019 – August 31st 2020, amount: CHF 166'183
  2. SNSF-PRIMA scholarship, title: “Novel ways of preventing age-related cognitive decline: Identifying the role of speech processing deficits in Alzheimer’s disease”, Nr. PR00P1_185715, period: Sept 1st 2020-August 31st 2025