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Traser, Louisa; Burk, Fabian; Ozen, Ali Caglar; Burdumy, Michael; Bock, Michael; Blaser, Daniela; Richter, Bernhard and Echternach, Matthias (2020): Respiratory kinematics and the regulation of subglottic pressure for phonation of pitch jumps - a dynamic MRI study.
In: PLOS One 15(12), e0244539 [PDF, 4MB]


The respiratory system is a central part of voice production as it contributes to the generation of subglottic pressure, which has an impact on voice parameters including fundamental frequency and sound pressure level. Both parameters need to be adjusted precisely during complex phonation tasks such as singing. In particular, the underlying functions of the diaphragm and rib cage in relation to the phonation of pitch jumps are not yet understood in detail. This study aims to analyse respiratory movements during phonation of pitch jumps using dynamic MRI of the lungs. Dynamic images of the breathing apparatus of 7 professional singers were acquired in the supine position during phonation of upwards and downwards pitch jumps in a high, medium, and low range of the singer's tessitura. Distances between characteristic anatomical landmarks in the lung were measured from the series of images obtained. During sustained phonation, the diaphragm elevates, and the rib cage is lowered in a monotonic manner. During downward pitch jumps the diaphragm suddenly changed its movement direction and presented with a short inspiratory activation which was predominant in the posterior part and was associated with a shift of the cupola in an anterior direction. The magnitude of this inspiratory movement was greater for jumps that started at higher compared to lower fundamental frequency. In contrast, expiratory movement of the rib cage and anterior diaphragm were simultaneous and continued constantly during the jump. The data underline the theory of a regulation of subglottic pressure via a sudden diaphragm contraction during phonation of pitch jumps downwards, while the rib cage is not involved in short term adaptations. This strengthens the idea of a differentiated control of rib cage and diaphragm as different functional units during singing phonation.

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