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Speech Involvement in Healthy Adults
Oral-Motor Physiological Effects of an 8-Week Mechanically Aided Resistance Exercise Program

By Pascal van Lieshout, Ph.D., Arpita Bose, M.Sc., Aravind Namasivayam Kumar, M.Sc., University of Toronto, Graduate Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Canada Conducted in Year 2000

This paper describes a study on the physiological effects of an 8-week mechanically aided exercise program using the Facial-Flex device (Facial Concepts, Inc.) with 4 healthy normal-speaking subjects. Using a variety of non-speech and speech tasks, we collected information on upper and lower lip muscle activity (EMG) and single and coordinated patterns of upper and lower lip movements at 2 baseline (BL) sessions and immediately after (POST) the 8-week training period. During that period, subjects exercised with the device twice a day for 50 repetitions each using a fixed resistance of 6 ounces.

The results indicated that after the training period, performance on the Facial-Flex task had increased as assessed by the Linebaugh tests. Regarding the physiological response, the normalized EMG output on average had increased for both the non-speech and speech tasks, but the effect was stronger for the former. Furthermore, subjects showed an increase in movement duration for lip closing, paralleled by a decrease in kinematic stiffness and an increase in velocity profile parameter (VPP) values. Task effects were also found, in that non-speech lip movements were clearly different from speech-related lip movements, showing longer durations and less stable movement and coordination patterns. In addition, the more complex speech tasks (3-syllable sequences), compared to the other speech tasks (1 and 2 syllables), showed smaller and faster lip closing movements with less stable movement and coordination patterns. Together, these task effects suggest that both non-speech and complex speech tasks put higher (although different) demands on the speech motor system.

In general, the data of this study support the claim that the use of the Facial-Flex device has a clear impact on speech-motor physiology and when embedded in a broader orofacial treatment approach may provide a valuable tool to improve facial muscle strength.

This work was supported by an operating grant from Facial Concepts, Inc. (Blue Bell, PA, USA).
*This is an excerpt from a manuscript submitted for publication to an international peer-reviewed journal

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