Improving Articulatory Precision in Neurologically Compromised Adults Using Audiovisual Biofeedback. One of the most frustrating impairments of neurological damage is the inability to communicate properly via the speech modality due to weakness in the oral motor structures, also known as dysarthria. We propose to develop a Tongue Tracking System (TTS) that can present real-time, audiovisual biofeedback of lingual movements to both neurologically compromised individuals and their speech and language pathologists (SLP) to facilitate performance of oral motor speech related tasks. It may also offer a new quantitative assessment of their progress. Treatment of dysarthria usually focuses on remediation of the motor and/or sensory deficits. While traditionally accomplished through use of Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises (NSOMEs) there are different schools of thought on interventional approaches. Some dispute the role of strength related exercise and advocate functional speech phonation task performance. Yet, obtaining quantifiable, objective measures on standard speech therapy practices, using either functional speech tasks or NSOMEs, is problematic for multiple reasons, the most important of which is the large variability in both the assessment and treatment of oral motor related tasks. No matter the therapeutic approach, TTS may serve to offer a new quantitative method for objectively evaluating interventions and also supplement various SLP modeling techniques by providing visual biofeedback of tongue kinematics. We have a working prototype of the TTS that consists of an array of 3-axis magnetic field sensors, mounted near the client's cheeks that can track a point on the tongue surface in real time to within 1mm spatially, thereby creating a spatiotemporal signature. The system accomplishes this by electromagnetically tracking a tiny magnetic tracer, the size of a lentil (5 mm, 1 mm thickness) that is temporarily attached to the tongue surface. In Phase I, we will create the necessary signal processing algorithm and user interface for 3D visualization of tongue movement, understandable by both the patient and the SLP, and examine its utility in a small pilot study. Between 6 and 9 Million people see SLP's for various speech disorders. TTS can be delivered very economically to both the SLP office and home settings of care. If, through continued product refinement and clinical research, we can demonstrate that TTS can accelerate therapy and improve clinical outcomes, we envision creating a large potential market of more than $1Billion.
Current speech and language therapy primarily relies on auditory feedback due to limitations in visually monitoring the tongue, whose motion is hidden inside the mouth. Because the tongue is the most important articulator, researchers have attempted to adapt various technologies in the past for tracking and visualizing the tongue motion for speech-language research applications. However, these efforts have been very complicated, expensive, and therefore, not practical for routine clinical use. We propose to develop a low-cost and portable Tongue Tracking System (TTS) that can present real-time, audiovisual biofeedback of lingual movements for both neurologically compromised individuals and their speech and language pathologists to enhance performance of oral motor exercises and accelerate speech therapy regimens.