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A sing-song way to a cure for speech disorder
Date:10/4/2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. Hindustani singing, a North Indian traditional style of singing, and classical singing, such as the music of Puccini, Mozart and Wagner, vary greatly in technique and sound. Now, speech-language pathology researchers at the University of Missouri are comparing the two styles in hopes of finding a treatment for laryngeal tremors, a vocal disorder associated with many neurological disorders that can result in severe communication difficulties.

Sound is developed in the larynx, an organ located in the neck. A laryngeal or vocal tremor occurs when the larynx spasms during speech, creating a breathy voice featuring a constantly shifting pitch. People with Parkinson's disease and other similar disorders often display vocal tremors. Currently, speech-language pathologists are only able to help patients manage tremors. By understanding the physiology behind voluntary and involuntary pitch fluctuation, an MU researcher hopes to find a treatment.

"Hindustani and classical singing styles are very different," said Nandhu Radhakrishnan, professor of communication science and disorders in the School of Health Professions. "In Hindustani singing, performers use 'Taan' to modulate pitch voluntarily, while classical singers use vibrato to vary pitch involuntarily. With this knowledge, we may be able to develop a specific therapy to cure laryngeal tremors."

Radhakrishnan is the first researcher to study the physiology of Hindustani singing. He worked with Ronald Scherer of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and Santanu Bandyopadhyay, a vocal teacher in West Bengal, India. In his study, he discovered several differences between Hindustani and classical singing. Primarily, Hindustani singing features a voluntary, rapid dip in pitch, which Radhakrishnan refers to as a "Taan gesture." In contrast, classical singers use a vocal modulation like vibrato to make a smooth transition between pitches.

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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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