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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 758731, 11 pages
Research Article

An Investigation of Vocal Tract Characteristics for Acoustic Discrimination of Pathological Voices

1Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Yonsei University, 134 Shinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, Republic of Korea
2Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 50 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
3Department of Otorhinolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 50 Irwon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 137–710, Republic of Korea

Received 16 July 2013; Revised 17 September 2013; Accepted 17 September 2013

Academic Editor: Tosiaki Miyati

Copyright © 2013 Jung-Won Lee et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper investigates the effectiveness of measures related to vocal tract characteristics in classifying normal and pathological speech. Unlike conventional approaches that mainly focus on features related to the vocal source, vocal tract characteristics are examined to determine if interaction effects between vocal folds and the vocal tract can be used to detect pathological speech. Especially, this paper examines features related to formant frequencies to see if vocal tract characteristics are affected by the nature of the vocal fold-related pathology. To test this hypothesis, stationary fragments of vowel /aa/ produced by 223 normal subjects, 472 vocal fold polyp subjects, and 195 unilateral vocal cord paralysis subjects are analyzed. Based on the acoustic-articulatory relationships, phonation for pathological subjects is found to be associated with measures correlated with a raised tongue body or an advanced tongue root. Vocal tract-related features are also found to be statistically significant from the Kruskal-Wallis test in distinguishing normal and pathological speech. Classification results demonstrate that combining the formant measurements with vocal fold-related features results in improved performance in differentiating vocal pathologies including vocal polyps and unilateral vocal cord paralysis, which suggests that measures related to vocal tract characteristics may provide additional information in diagnosing vocal disorders.