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A Biomechanical Model For Infant Speech And Aerodigestive Movements

Connor Mayer, Ian Stavness, Bryan Gick


A central question in speech acquisition is how infants are able to learn speech movements rapidly and with limited input. A relatively untested but appealing hypothesis is that some core speech movements may build on preexisting aerodigestive movements like swallowing and suckling (e.g. [MacNeilage, 2008, The Origin of Speech]; [Studdert-Kennedy & Goldstein, 2003, Launching Language]). We will present a model of an infant tongue and palate using a 3D biomechanical simulation platform (; e.g., [Stavness et al., 2012, J. Biomech. 45(16): 355-94]; [Gick et al., 2014, Compu. Meth. in Biomech. & Biomed. Eng.: Imag. & Vis. 2(4): 217-222]). This model, generated from CT and MRI imaging data, will be capable of simulating both swallowing and simple speech movements. The results of simulations using this model will provide useful insight into infant motor control, and will help to supplement neurological, clinical and kinematic evidence relating speech and aerodigestive movements. [Funding from NSERC].

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