Speech motor control and acute mountain sickness

Allen Cymerman, Philip Lieberman, Jesse Hochstadt, Paul Rock, Gail E. Butterfield, Lorna G. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: An objective method that accurately quantifies the severity of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) symptoms is needed to enable more reliable evaluation of altitude acclimatization and testing of potentially beneficial interventions. Hypothesis: Changes in human articulation, as quantified by timed variations in acoustic waveforms of specific spoken words (voice onset time; VOT), are correlated with the severity of AMS. Methods: Fifteen volunteers were exposed to a simulated altitude of 4300 m (446 mm Hg) in a hypobaric chamber for 48 h. Speech motor control was determined from digitally recorded and analyzed timing patterns of 30 different monosyllabic words characterized as voiced and unvoiced, and as labial, alveolar, or velar. The Environmental Symptoms Questionnaire (ESQ) was used to assess AMS. Results: Significant AMS symptoms occurred after 4 h, peaked at 16 h, and returned toward baseline after 48 h. Labial VOTs were shorter after 4 and 39 h of exposure; velar VOTs were altered only after 4 h; and there were no changes in alveolar VOTs. The duration of vowel sounds was increased after 4 h of exposure and returned to normal thereafter. Only 1 of 15 subjects did not increase vowel time after 4 h of exposure. The 39-h labial (p = 0.009) and velar (p = 0.037) voiced-unvoiced timed separations consonants and the symptoms of AMS were significantly correlated. Conclusions: Two objective measures of speech production were affected by exposure to 4300 m altitude and correlated with AMS severity. Alterations in speech production may represent an objective measure of AMS and central vulnerability to hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-772
Number of pages7
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Volume73
Issue number8
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2002

Keywords

  • Acute mountain sickness
  • Altitude
  • Hypobaric hypoxia
  • Speech

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    Cymerman, A., Lieberman, P., Hochstadt, J., Rock, P., Butterfield, G. E., & Moore, L. G. (2002). Speech motor control and acute mountain sickness. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 73(8), 766-772.