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Neurologists examine connection of diseases with native language

People with the same brain disease may need different therapy based on their language backround.

Neurologist Irena Rektorová.

New possibilities for early detection and more accurate diagnoses of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, and verification of a tailor-made therapy are being examined by neurologists form CEITEC Masaryk University (MU).

In cooperation with colleagues from Hungary and USA, using various methods of behavioural neurology, they examine brain activity in connection with speech and cognitive functions in various cultures, and the existence of the diseases in people speaking various languages. The CoBeN project is supported by 306,000 EUR; i.e. more than eight million Czech crowns, from the European Union Horizon 2020 programme.

The specialists are going to examine which parts of the brain get involved in reading, writing and speaking individual languages, and whether any possible culture-based changes have any impact on the clinical effects of patients experiencing vascular brain stroke and patients suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. They expect to find some differences which could be used for treatments. The English language, unlike Czech and Hungarian languages, is not phonetic; pronunciation and spelling of words are different.

The Group Leader Irena Rektorová says: “Provided it is proved that people with the same brain disease have different interlinking in areas important for speech and higher cognitive functions in various language environments, then these people's treatment should be provided in a different way and reflect their specific functional brain changes.” And she also added that this holds true for some cases of stroke or Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease where patients have problems with articulation or pronunciation.

The aim of the project is not only to find early signs of development in neurodegenerative diseases by means of an innovative method, but also to verify the effectivity of some therapies which can target disorder of functions, the functional state of the brain and the specific needs of a given patient.

It also includes other non-invasive stimulations of certain parts of the brain by using an alternating pulse magnetic field. Ms Rektorova says: “Individual brain areas interlink into neuronal networks while dealing with various tasks. By stimulating one or more areas we are able to boost the whole network and to achieve, for example, improvement of some aspects of speech.”

Reading and writing, speech production and eyesight-concentration functions will be monitored by experts concentrating on patients in the early stage of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease or people experiencing a stroke, and they will compare them with healthy volunteers. The participants of the study will undertake neurological, neuropsychical and logaoedic examination; some speech and cognitive tasks will be performed during magnetic resonance examination.

Czech volunteers and Hungarian speaking participants will be monitored by a group from the Szeged University in Brno; English speaking volunteers will be examined by specialists from the University in Arizona.