The purpose of this project was to assess the feasibility of imaging the velophalrynx of adult volunteers during repetitive speech, using gated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Although a number of investigators have used conventional MRI in the study of the human vocal tract, the mismatch between the lengthy time necessary to acquire sufficiently detailed images and the rapidity of movement of the vocal tract during speech has forced investigators to acquire images either while the subject is at rest or during sustained utterances. The technique used here acquired a portion of each image during repetitive utterances, building the full image over multiple utterance cycles. The velopharyngeal portal was imaged on a 1.5 Tesla GE Signa LX 8.2 platform with gated fast spoiled gradient echo protocol. An external 1-Hertz trigger was fed to the cardiac gate. Subjects synchronized utterance of consonant-vowel syllables to a flashing light synchronized with the external trigger. Each acquisition of 30 phases per second at a single-slice location took 22 to 29 seconds. Four consonant-vowel syllables (/pa/, /ma/, /sa/, and /ka/) were evaluated. Subjects vocalized throughout the acquisition, beginning 5 to 6 seconds beforehand to establish a regular rhythm. Imaging of the velopharyngeal portal was performed for sagittal, velopharyngeal axial (aligned perpendicular to the "knee" of the velum), axial, and coronal planes. Volumes were obtained by sequential acquisition of six to 10 slices (each with 30 phases) in the axial or sagittal planes during repetition of the /pa/ syllable. Spatiotemporal volumes of the single-slice data were sectioned to provide time-motion images (analogous to M-mode echocardiograms). Three-dimensional dynamic volume renderings of palate motion were displayed interactively (Vortex; CieMed, Singapore). A method suitable for the collection and visualization of four-dimensional information regarding monosyllabic speech using gated MRI was developed. These techniques were applied to a population of adult volunteer subjects with no history of speech problems and two patients with a history of cleft lip and palate. The techniques allowed good real-time visualization of velopharyngeal anatomy during its entire range of motion and was also able to image pathologyspecific anatomic differences in the subjects with cleft lip and cleft palate. These methods may be applicable to a wide spectrum of problems in speech physiology research and for clinical decision-making regarding surgery for speech and outcomes analysis.
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