Muhammad Ali was a famous—and poetic—trash-talker. But several years before the boxing legend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 42, his speech began to slow and slur, according to a new study reported on by ESPN. In the research presented today at the Interspeech 2017 conference, speech scientists analyzing archival footage found that from the age of 26 to 39, Ali’s rate of speech—measured in syllables per second—slowed by 26%, and that he was slurring words a full 3 years before diagnosis. Such symptoms in patients with full-blown Parkinson’s are well-known, but the researchers say Ali’s case shows the need for more long-term speech studies of people at risk of the neurodegenerative disorder.
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