The Directional into Velocity of Articulators (DIVA) model theorises that we require both auditory and sensory feedback - from our articulators - in order to ensure we are able to produce precise and powerful articulatory movements. This study aimed to test this theory with 60 participants; 40 women and 20 men aged between 19 and 84 years of age. The participants were divided into three groups representing younger, middle and older groups. The participants completed three different low-level orofacial force control assessments comprising 1) a visually guided dynamic force tracking method, 2) an end-point controlled step force task and 3) a qualitatively slow vs. fast ramp-and-hold task. Participants’ performance was compared across gender, age, speech usage and smoking. Results demonstrated age-related changes in fine force lip control. Additionally smokers had difficulties maintaining force endpoint. Older participants were also found to have more hesitant and slower force to a target end point. These results highlight a complex relationship between auditory input, sensory perception and fine force control in the orofacial systems. This points toward older adults with neurological speech-disorders being disadvantaged in speech and language therapy, which uses sensory feedback as a therapeutic approach. Gaining a better understanding of how speech articulation works will lead to a better understanding of a range of therapy approaches for this often neglected area of rehabilitation.

Effects of ageing on orofacial fine force control and its relationship with parallel change in sensory perception.
Etter N, Mckeon PO, Dressler EV, et al.
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Anna Volkmer

UCL, London, UK.

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