Researchers used a new MRI technique that is 10 times faster than standard MRI scanners to illustrate how the hundreds of muscles in our neck, jaw, tongue, and lips work together to make sound.
The sound of the voice is created in the larynx, located in the neck. When we sing or speak, the vocal folds — the two small pieces of tissue — come together and, as air passes over them, they vibrate, which produces sound.
Aaron Johnson, assistant professor in Speech and Hearing Science, and Beckman Institute faculty member, is the guy singing in the video. Johnson said:
The fact that we can produce all sorts of sounds and we can sing is just amazing to me. Sounds are produced by the vibrations of just two little pieces of tissue. That’s why I’ve devoted my whole life to studying it: I think it’s just incredible.
The new MRI technique, developed by a team of researchers at the Beckman Institute, captures MRI images at a far faster rate than any other MRI technique in the world. This dynamic imaging is especially useful in studying how rapidly the tongue is moving, along with other muscles in the head and neck during speech and singing.
The researchers published their technique in the May, 2015 issue of the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.
Bottom line: Beckman Institute researchers used a new MRI technique that is 10 times faster than standard MRI scanners to illustrate how the hundreds of muscles in our neck, jaw, tongue, and lips work together to make sound in this video of an MRI one of the researchers singing “If I only had a brain.”
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.