Decline in Trump's speech quality could be sign of cognitive decline

Trump’s Speech Deterioration Could Be An Early Sign Of Dementia, Experts Say

Experts claim to have compared Trump’s speech from several years ago to his speech in 2017 and found certain anomalous patterns that could be early signs of dementia.

STAT asked neurolinguists and other speech performance experts to analyze Trump’s speech pattern in 2017, after he became president, and compare it with his speech pattern in the 1980s and 1990s for evidence of recent cognitive decline. The experts conducted an analysis of recent unscripted speech by Trump and compared it with recordings of his unscripted speech from years ago. They found that Trump appears to be experiencing a declining ability to construct structured sentences and express his thoughts coherently.

According to STAT’s Sharon Begley, a demonstration of Trump’s apparent speech disability occurred during a recent press conference when he struggled to give a coherent response to a question about his alleged links with Russia.

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians, zero.”

Experts observed that Trump’s disrupted speech pattern, riddled with syntax anomalies, persistent repetitions, and constant shifts in train of thought, appears to be recent. According to the experts who have reviewed recordings of Trump’s speech in interviews from the 1980s and 1990s, he has not always suffered an apparent linguistic disability.

The experts said that the differences between the quality of Trump’s speech when he was younger and his speech in 2017 are unmistakable and could be part of the early signs of cognitive decline or dementia.

According to experts, changes in speech pattern could signal the onset of dementia. Reduced vocabulary, impairment of verbal fluency and inability to construct complex sentences are a sign of deterioration of cognitive function. Cognitive decline can be assessed through analysis of unscripted speech which draws heavily on the neural network facility that processes language-mediated thought process.

“We’ll do some questions, unless you have enough questions.”

The experts studied Trump’s speech in interviews with several talk show hosts in the 1980s and 1990s. They observed that he was far more articulate, employed a much more varied vocabulary and was able to sustain a train of thought without disruptive interruptions. They also observed that he showed an ability to construct well-structured sentences when answering sensitive and complex questions about his private life and business.

But Trump’s speech in 2017, after he became president, shows an evident pattern of deterioration compared with the quality of his speech in the 1990s and 1980s, according to the experts. His vocabulary is now severely watered down and he repeats himself in sustained cycles. He often displays an inability to sustain a coherent train of thought. Trump’s thought process disability, according to experts who analyzed his recent speech, is exhibited in his tendency to ramble, moving abruptly from a series of connected ideas to another without establishing a logical connection during the transition.

On one occasion, Trump began to address a question about his plan to build a border wall, but immediately became mired in sustained repetition of the same idea. And as soon as he broke out of the cycle, he lurched straight into another thought train without establishing a logical connection with the previous subject.

“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it – you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”

“There are clearly some changes in Trump as a speaker” that indicate a “clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time,” said Ben Michaelis, a professor of psychology who performs cognitive tests for the courts.

“When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I’ll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago.”

“From the time I took office til now, you know, it’s a very exact thing. It’s not like generalities.”

The experts warned, however, that the apparent deterioration in Trump’s linguistic ability could be a sign of psychological stress, linked with anxiety, frustration, and anger. They also noted that under normal conditions of mental health, Trump, at over 70-years-old, could be expected to show signs of cognitive decline, compared with 30 years ago.

“In fairness to Trump, he’s 70, so some decline in his cognitive functioning over time would be expected.”

[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]

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