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Feasibility and Acceptability of Lee Silverman Voice Treatment in Progressive Ataxias

Communication difficulties have considerable impact on people with progressive ataxia, yet there are currently no evidence-based treatments. Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT LOUD®) focuses on the production of healthy vocal loudness whilst also improving breath support, vocal quality, loudness and articulation in participating patients. This study aimed to investigate whether LSVT LOUD® can improve communication effectiveness in these patients. We performed a rater-blinded, single-arm study investigating LSVT LOUD® treatment in a population of patients with progressive ataxia including Friedreich's ataxia (n = 18), spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (n = 1), idiopathic cerebellar ataxia (n = 1), and spastic paraplegia 7 (n = 1). Twenty-one patients were recruited to the study, with 19 completing treatment. Sessions were administered via Skype in the LSVT-X format, meaning two sessions per week over a period of 8 weeks. Assessments included two baseline and two post-treatment measures and focused on outcome measures covering aspects ranging from physiological function to impact and participation. Results indicate improvements in patient-perceived outcomes for 14 of the 19 participants, in both speech and psychosocial domains. Speech data furthermore demonstrate significant improvements in prolonged vowel duration, and voice quality measures. Intelligibility and naturalness evaluations showed no change post-treatment. Patients reported high acceptability of the treatment itself, as well as administration by Skype. This is the largest treatment study for people with progressive ataxia published to date. It provides an indication that LSVT LOUD® can have a positive impact on communication in this patient group and could form the basis for larger-scale trials.

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