Formant Dynamics in Vowel Pronunciation as Acoustic Correlates of Concussed Speech

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Abstract

Human voice carries various indexical, linguistic, and pathologic information. Concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which may impact individual’s normal voicing behaviors through disruption of upper or lower motor neuron neural pathways involved in speech production. Early
diagnosis of this neurological disorder through acoustic analysis of speech signal provides a low-cost, non-invasive and valuable mean for effective intervention and treatment of this neurologic disorder. Individuals with concussed brain are very likely to experience impaired neural
intervention to muscles and tissues responsible for articulatory movement during speech. Evidence of deviation from normal articulatory movements can be captured by tracking formant changes as acoustic measures of the natural resonances of the vocal cavity (i.e., vocal tract) during sound articulation. This study investigates the informativeness of first (F1) and second formant (F2) dynamics during sustained /a/ vowel phonation in prediction of concussed speech. Vowel pronunciation of 84 participants were recorded before and right after concussion diagnosis. F1 and F2 values were extracted for 84 subjects (12 Females and 72 Males) at
consecutive analysis frames with 10 ms length during the pronunciation of sustained vowels. The formant parameters were adjusted for male (maximum formant = 5 KHz) and female (maximum formant = 5.5 KHz) participants to assure the accuracy of formant estimation. Temporal
variation of formant trajectories before and after concussion revealed that the articulatory movements in individuals who diagnosed with concussion contain wider range of variability with deviated tongue position after diagnosis compared to normal condition. Machine learning of temporally dynamic cues of F1-F2 formant trajectories revealed the distinctive clusters of formant trajectories distribution for the vowel sounds pronounced before and after concussion. The findings from this study suggest that neural and functional impairments caused by concussion negatively affect individuals’ ability to preserve normal movements of articulatory organs including tongue, mouth and jaw. This deviation from normal pronunciation of vowel sounds is detectable by tracking temporal variation of F1-F2 formant values as biomarkers of concussed speech.

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