Speech and Language Disorders in Friedreich Ataxia: Highlights on Phenomenology, Assessment, and Therapy

  • Tommaso SchirinziEmail author
  • Andrea Sancesario
  • Enrico Bertini
  • Enrico Castelli
  • Gessica Vasco


Speech and language disorders are prominent signs in Friedreich ataxia (FRDA), which significantly impact on patients’ quality of life. Despite such relevance, several issues regarding phenomenology, assessment, and treatment are still unmet. In this short review, we thus analyzed the existing literature to summarize what is known about the features of speech and language disorders in FRDA, which methods are used for evaluation and rating, and what are the available therapeutic strategies and future direction of scientific research in this field, in order to highlight critical aspects for a better clinical approach to the problem. FRDA patients often present dysarthria, resulting from central and peripheral causes and additional primary language disorders. Speech disturbances have peculiar characteristics, although variable among patients, and progress along the disease course. Assessment relies on multiple but not specific clinical scales, some of which can also reflect the general severity of ataxia; classical instrumental investigations and novel technologies allow more accurate measurements of several speech parameters, which could found application as potential disease’s biomarkers. No successful treatments exist for communication disorders of FRDA patients; however, the tailored speech training or the non-invasive neuromodulation appear as the most reliable therapeutic options to be validate in future trials.


Friedreich ataxia Speech Language Voice Biomarkers 


Authors’ Contribution

EC and GV had the idea for the article; TS and AS performed the literature search and data analysis and drafted the work; GV, EC, and EB critically revised the work.

Funding Information

This study was partially funded by “Progetto di Rete NET-2013-02356160,” Italian Ministry of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurosciencesIRCCS Bambino Gesù Children’s HospitalRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Systems MedicineUniversity of Roma Tor VergataRomeItaly
  3. 3.Unit of NeurorehabilitationIRCCS Bambino Gesù Children’s HospitalRomeItaly

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