Hugo Botha, M.B., Ch.B., is involved in elucidating the clinical, imaging and biomarker characteristics of degenerative speech and language disorders. Functional neuroimaging is employed to understand degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Botha investigates the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning techniques to extract biologically meaningful information from voice signals, including digital diagnostics. He also explores the use of biomarkers to distinguish common degenerative diseases and understand the role of copathology.
Dr. Botha's experience and skill set allow him to work at the intersection of many fields, including clinical behavioral neurology, neuroimaging, statistics, signal processing and machine learning.
- Biological underpinnings of apraxia of speech. Apraxia of speech results from impaired planning or programming of speech movements. Dr. Botha has received federal funding to study the clinical, imaging and pathological characteristics of this disorder. He is using 7-tesla task functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for patients with apraxia of speech to understand the neurological correlates of the disease. This research is done in collaboration with Keith A. Josephs, M.D., and Jennifer Whitwell, Ph.D.
- Multimodal characterization of dementia. Although Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in the U.S., several disorders mimic it or commonly occur simultaneously with Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Botha uses MRI, glucose positron emission tomography (PET), amyloid PET and tau PET to characterize the contribution of Alzheimer's and non-Alzheimer's processes to mild cognitive impairment and dementia. This research is done in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the Aging and Dementia Imaging Research Lab.
- AI-enhanced assessment of neurological disorders. Dr. Botha is the associate director of the Neurology Artificial Intelligence Program, directed by David T. Jones, M.D. In this capacity, he leads a large project aiming to use AI to improve the detection of disease through speech. He is actively involved in several other AI projects through that program. Dr. Botha also co-directs the Research Office of Digital Innovation in Mayo Clinic's Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCaTS).
Significance to patient care
The goal of Dr. Botha's work is to develop more reliable markers of the presence of disease and disease progression. This includes early imaging markers, machine learning-driven tools or novel clinical instruments. These will help diagnose patients earlier and improve clinical trial design.
- Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral Neurology, American Academy of Neurology, 2021.