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Vowel Space Area changes tell a story of hope for people with ALS

Have I mentioned my deep appreciation for speech language specialists and physical therapists? Their findings, experience and advice have been indispensable for developing music therapy protocol to support independent breathing, speech, cough and swallowing for persons living with ALS. Yet more – for measuring the effect of the music therapy treatment during this research.

I spent two days last week at MGH Institute of Health Professions Speech and Feeding Disorders Lab in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, brainstorming the most efficient ways to tackle acoustic speech analysis. My first Master’s and postgraduate research was in linguistics, but I have never considered I would go back to spectrograms! But I am grateful that colleagues at the lab advised me to do so. Visual representations of the changes in vowel space area are telling a wonderful story of hope for persons with early and mid-stage ALS. 

Vowel space area changes in ALS with music therapy treatment: the larger is the area within the dots – the more distinct are the vowels, or, simply put, clearer the speech.

Baseline 1 (self-control, week 1)

Pre treatment (natural decline, week 6)

Post treatment (music therapy effect, week 12)

Follow up (lasting effect, with continued independent exercises, week 16)


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