Navigation Links
Virginia Tech researcher seeks to use electrical stimulation to give voice to stroke patients
Date:3/4/2011

Virginia Tech College of Engineering researcher is seeking a new way to help those who are unable to speak to find their voice. But this isn't "The King's Speech," the Academy Award-winning film about a British royal undergoing speech therapy to battle a stammer. Instead, Alexander Leonessa (http://www.me.vt.edu/people/faculty/leonessa.html) wants to help bring back the voice of stroke patients and others who have suffered paralysis of the vocal folds, through electrical stimulation.

Leonessa, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering (http://www.me.vt.edu/), is developing a small device that could use functional electrical stimulation on the paralyzed vocal folds of stroke patients or others who have lost the ability to talk, or even swallow and breathe properly. "The device has the potential of improving the quality of life for patients with vocal paralysis, or neuromuscular disabilities, including traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and Parkinson's disease," he said.

Leonessa won a $480,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award for this research effort. The CAREER grant is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award, given to creative junior faculty likely considered to become academic leaders of the future.

The concept of electrical stimulation on muscles is decades old, and is regularly used on legs and arms to prevent muscle atrophy. If the brain can no longer send electrical impulses to move a limb, the muscles and nerves can basically die off from disuse. Therefore, doctors use an external electrical appendage placed on the exterior skin to provide a small electrical shock that can cause the muscle to contract. The practice exercises the muscles, and therefore can save the leg or arm.

Leonessa said that applying the same method to vocal folds can result in reinnervating the muscle, which also affects breathing and swallowing and other functions. The folds close and open almost like eye lids to create or release air pressure that vibrates the vocal chords, and makes sound. If one of the flaps is unable to close, no pressure, hence no sound, can be created. In many cases, be it from a stroke or injury, one of the folds is affected by paralysis, Leonessa said.

During the five-year study, Leonessa and his graduate student research team will work with doctors at the Center for Voice and Swallowing Disorders (http://www.wfubmc.edu/Center-for-Voice-and-Swallowing-Disorders/), part of Wake Forrest University's Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. There, patients with paralyzed vocal folds will undergo electrical stimulation tests to see if small shocks can reinvigorate their ability to talk through forced contraction.

The effort has several challenges: Muscles are highly nonlinear and have time-varying characteristics, depending on the patient. Further, a stimulated muscle changes when fatigue occurs and individual muscle models are different. Even more challenging is the fact that there is a significant delay between stimulation and muscle contraction, adding to the processing and transmission delays in the electrical stimulation system.

Leonessa plans to develop a portable, noninvasive device that can be adjusted to each patient. The device itself would be no larger than an iPod, clipped to the belt, and have small wires leading to a patch over the patient's throat. An Atlanta-based tech company will help develop the device, which will come later in the five-year study if the use of electrical stimulation on the vocal folds holds promise for muscle and nerve rejuvenation.

"Breathing and swallowing have received much attention for patients with vocal fold paralysis, but vocalization is still considered an open problem with unresolved issues due to the complexity of the larynx and the difficulties in stimulating the relevant muscles, without invasive surgeries, given their depth in the neck," said Leonessa. "The proposed development of a robust control strategy in cooperation with voice-driven data acquisition and a novel electrode array for stimulation purposes will provide a solution to these issues."


'/>"/>

Contact: Steven Mackay
smackay@vt.edu
540-231-4787
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Virginia Tech shares in grant to study effects of climate change on southern pine forests
2. Virginia Tech engineer identifies new concerns for antibiotic resistance, pollution
3. Virginia Tech engineers introduce thermotherapy as a chemotherapy alternative
4. USDA awards Virginia Tech $3.8 million to stimulate eastern US wine industry
5. Virginia Tech studies impact of Gulf oil spill on plovers
6. Government agencies fund improved fuel economy research at Virginia Tech
7. Industry to Demonstrate Off-the-Shelf Integrated Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism Solutions at Northern Virginia Site
8. Virginia Techs Mueller receives friendship award from China
9. Industry to Demonstrate Off-the-Shelf Integrated Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism Solutions at Northern Virginia Site
10. NSF funds Virginia Tech program to train researchers at intersection of engineering, biology
11. Major Force Protection and Anti-Terrorist Equipment Demonstration Set for Next May 17-19 in Northern Virginia
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/15/2016)... , April 15, 2016  A new partnership ... more accurate underwriting decisions in a fraction of ... competitively priced and high-value life insurance policies to ... With Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, ... data readings (blood pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... April 13, 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients ... a new clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a ... the higi platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key ... body mass index, and, when they opt in, share ... visit to a local retail location at no cost. ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... BOCA RATON, Florida , March 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect ... Synthetic DNA in ink used in a variety of ... preventing theft. Buyers of originally created collectibles from athletes ... authenticity through forensic analysis of the DNA. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/3/2016)... CO (PRWEB) , ... May 03, 2016 , ... ... , announced the addition of Dr. Nancy Gillett to its Board of Directors. ... position, she served as Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer. A ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... ... May 03, 2016 , ... Wearable Tech + ... conferences, will take place on June 7-8, 2016, at the New York Academy of ... incorporating technology -- including AR/VR, machine learning, apps, robotics and AI -- throughout a ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... Texas , May 3, 2016  Dr. ... plastic surgeon in The Woodlands, Texas ... destroys 24 percent of treated fat cells in just ... woman. Close to 90 percent of Americans report feeling ... options. Nonsurgical fat reduction procedures are a growing industry. ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , ... May 03, 2016 , ... ... fertility clinics and IVF laboratories. A contingency of reproductive endocrinologists, including Dr. ... and women experiencing infertility and to help them build families. , Ovation Fertility ...
Breaking Biology Technology: