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Virtual vocal function exercises (Van Stan et al., 2020)

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posted on 2020-12-07, 22:03 authored by Jarrad H. Van Stan, Se-Woong Park, Matthew Jarvis, Joseph Stemple, Robert E. Hillman, Dagmar Sternad
Purpose: Successful voice therapy requires the patient to learn new vocal behaviors, but little is currently known regarding how vocal motor skills are improved and retained. To quantitatively characterize the motor learning process in a clinically meaningful context, a virtual task was developed based on the Vocal Function Exercises. In the virtual task, subjects control a computational model of a ball floating on a column of airflow via modifications to mean airflow (L/s) and intensity (dB-C) to keep the ball within a target range representing a normative ratio (dB × s/L).
Method: One vocally healthy female and one female with nonphonotraumatic vocal hyperfunction practiced the task for 11 days and completed retention testing 1 and 6 months later. The mapping between the two execution variables (airflow and intensity) and one error measure (proximity to the normative ratio) was evaluated by quantifying distributional variability (tolerance cost and noise cost) and temporal variability (scaling index of detrended fluctuation analysis).
Results: Both subjects reduced their error over practice and retained their performance 6 months later. Tolerance cost and noise cost were positively correlated with decreases in error during early practice and late practice, respectively. After extended practice, temporal variability was modulated to align with the task’s solution manifold.
Conclusions: These case studies illustrated, in a healthy control and a patient with nonphonotraumatic vocal hyperfunction, that the virtual floating ball task produces quantitative measures characterizing the learning process. Future work will further investigate the task’s potential to enhance clinical assessment and treatments involving voice control.

Supplemental Material S1. Example trial recording.

Van Stan, J. H., Park, S.-W., Jarvis, M., Stemple, J., Hillman, R. E., & Sternad, D. (2020). Quantitative assessment of learning and retention in virtual vocal function exercises. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.


This work was supported by the Voice Health Institute and the National Institutes of Health under Grants R01-SD045639, R01-HD081346, and R01-HD087089 (PI: Dagmar Sternad); R-33-DC011588 and P50-DC015446 (PI: Robert Hillman); and F31-DC014412 (PI: Jarrad Van Stan).