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Physical and computational models for studying the biomechanics of voice production

Scott Thomson, PhD

In human voice production, air from the lungs dynamically interacts with vocal fold tissue to generate self-sustained vocal fold oscillation, which in turn creates a fluctuating pressure field that is the source of sound for voice and speech. In addition to this primary air-tissue interaction that drives vocal fold vibration, other fluid-structure interactions occur within the interior regions of the vocal folds, such as is the case with benign vocal fold lesions known as polyps. The vocal fold system, therefore, often consists of multiple subsystems with different types of fluid-structure interactions that are distinct, yet coupled. In our lab we have used experimental and computational models of the vocal folds and upper respiratory airways to study the voice production biomechanics and fluid-structure interactions. The experimental models are fabricated using silicone materials of different stiffnesses to represent the multi-layered structure of the human vocal folds. These models vibrate with amplitudes, frequencies, and vibration patterns similar to those produced by the human vocal folds. In this presentation, the models and their fabrication processes will be described and results from various experiments will be discussed.

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