Syllabic diadochokinesis in adults with and without traumatic brain injury: Severity, stability, and speech considerations

Nancy Pearl Solomon*, Douglas S. Brungart, Jessica R. Wince, Jordan C. Abramowitz, Megan M. Eitel, Julie Cohen, Sara M. Lippa, Tracey A. Brickell, Louis M. French, Rael T. Lange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: Syllabic diadochokinesis (DDK) is a standard assessment task for motor speech disorders. This study aimed to compare rate and regularity of DDK according to the presence or absence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and severity of TBI, examine the stability of DDK over time, and explore associations between DDK and extemporaneous speech. Method: Military service members and veterans were categorized into three groups: no history of TBI (control), uncomplicated mild TBI (mTBI), and moderate through severe (including penetrating) TBI (msTBI). Participants produced rapid alternating-motion and sequential-motion syllable repetitions during one or two sessions. A semi-automated protocol determined syllabic rate and regularity. Perceptual ratings of selected participants’ connected speech samples were compared to DDK results. Results: Two hundred sixty-three service members and veterans provided data from one session and 69 from two sessions separated by 1.9 years (SD = 1.0). DDKs were significantly slower overall for mTBI and msTBI groups compared to controls. Regularity of productions did not differ significantly across groups. A significant Group × Task interaction revealed that the msTBI group produced sequential-motion syllable repetitions but not alternatingmotion repetitions with greater regularity, whereas the opposite occurred for control and mTBI groups. DDK results did not differ significantly between sessions. Perceptual speech analysis for 30 participants, including 20 with atypical or questionable DDK performance, revealed two participants with mildly abnormal speech. Conclusions: Overall, DDK productions are slower than normal in adults with moderate, severe, and penetrating TBI and are stable over time. Regularity of productions did not differentiate groups, although this result differed according to task. There were surprisingly few people identified with disordered speech, making comparisons to DDK data tenuous, and indicating that dysarthria is a rare complication in a population of adults with mostly uncomplicated mTBI who are not selected from referrals to a speech-language pathology clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1400-1409
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number3s
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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