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Researchers identify link between speech and language disorders and the teaching profession

Teacher's appleEvery now and then I read a story that makes me involuntarily mutter, "that can't be right." I read, and re-read, this press release on the newfound link between language disorders and teachers three times before I accepted that I'd actually read the story correctly.

As the release explains, researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that people with speech and language disorders were 3.4 times more likely to have worked as a teacher than people with Alzheimer's dementia.

Does this mean that teachers have a propensity for speech and language problems? Not exactly. This research began as a side project; the Mayo researchers were originally studying speech and language disorders when they noticed something unusual in their data – a disproportionate number of the patients in their study either had worked, or were working, as teachers.

The research team was curious to know if there was a potential link between language disorders and the teaching profession, and if a similar pattern might be present in patients with another degenerative disease that affects the brain, Alzheimer’s disease. They found that approximately 22 percent of the patients with speech disorders were teachers, compared to only 8 percent of the patients with Alzheimer’s dementia. The findings of their study were published recently in the journal, American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias.

These results are noteworthy because they highlight a potentially important area for future research on speech and language disorders. In the press release, Mayo Clinic neurologist and senior author Keith Josephs, MD, commented on the link between teachers and communication disorders, saying "it's a demanding occupation, and teachers may be more sensitive to the development of speech and language impairments."

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: When brain’s trash collectors fall down on the job, neurodegeneration risk picks upResearchers combine brain-imaging tool and stroke test to detect early signs of dementiaNew study links generational language problems to gene mutations?Habla Espanol? How bilingualism may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms and Stanford biostatistician talks about saving your aging brain
Photo by thanker212

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