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Lauren R. Scheiner, Neeraja Sadagopan and David E. Sherwood

Purpose:

The effect of blocked practice (BP) versus random practice (RP) on the acquisition and retention of novel speech motor sequences in healthy young adults was examined.

Method:

Twenty participants underwent a comparable amount of practice in either blocked or random order and were tested for retention the following day. Behavioral accuracy and kinematic measures of timing were obtained.

Results:

Performance levels were significantly higher, overall, for the BP group compared with the RP during the acquisition phases. During the retention test, the RP group was significantly more accurate than the BP group. Similar trends were noted, but did not reach significance, for kinematic measures.

Conclusion:

Consistent with patterns established in the limb motor learning literature, our results indicate that BP leads to higher overall performance levels (though not necessarily greater gains in performance) during acquisition, whereas improved performance at retention is facilitated by RP.

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Jenya Iuzzini-Seigel, Tiffany P. Hogan, Panying Rong and Jordan R. Green

Lip shape in adult talkers is primarily driven by vertical opening; however, little is known about how children converge on this highly organized and efficient lip shape pattern. This longitudinal study investigated the development of lip shape control and its relation to speech and vocabulary acquisition in 28 typically developing children between 3 months and 5 years of age. Results suggested that during infancy lip shape was characterized by horizontal spreading of the lips, but that the contribution of vertical opening increased nonmonotonically over time. This change co-occurred with gains in expressive communication. These data suggest that lip shape may represent an important marker of normal oromotor development. Future work is required to determine the functional significance of the observed changes in lip shape control for identifying children at risk for speech and language impairments.

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Ramesh Kaipa, Michael Robb and Richard Jones

In this experiment, we investigated the role of practice variability (constant versus variable practice) and practice schedule (random versus blocked practice) on spatial and temporal learning of a speech task as a function of aging. The participants were 80 healthy individuals (40–80 years) with no history of cognitive, sensory, or motor disorders. A median split was performed to divide the participants into older and younger groups. The median split was at 59 years of age, thus placing 40 participants in each age group. The participants were assigned to one of four practice groups and practiced a nonmeaningful phrase for two consecutive days. On the third day, the participants reproduced the speech phrase without practice. Data analysis revealed that older participants involved in constant practice demonstrated superior temporal learning of the speech task over participants on variable practice. Older participants on random practice demonstrated better spatial learning of the speech task than did participants on blocked practice. In contrast, there was no effect of practice conditions on spatial and temporal learning outcomes in the younger group. The findings indicate that practice variability and practice schedule influence different aspects of a complex speech-motor learning task among older adults but not among younger adults.

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Kirrie J. Ballard, Heather D. Smith, Divija Paramatmuni, Patricia McCabe, Deborah G. Theodoros and Bruce E. Murdoch

Knowledge of Performance (KP) feedback, such as biofeedback or kinematic feedback, is used to provide information on the nature and quality of movement responses for the purpose of guiding active learning or rehabilitation of motor skills. It has been proposed that KP feedback may interfere with long-term learning when provided throughout training. Here, twelve healthy English-speaking adults were trained to produce a trilled Russian [r] in words with KP kinematic feedback using electropalatography (EPG) and without KP (noKP). Five one-hour training sessions were provided over one week with testing pretraining and one day and one week posttraining. No group differences were found at pretraining or one day post training for production accuracy. A group by time interaction supported the hypothesis that providing kinematic feedback continually during skill acquisition interferes with retention.

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William J. Merriman, Beth E. Barnett and Joan B. Kofka

This study was undertaken to investigate quantitative and qualitative differences in the standing long jump as performed by preschool children with speech impairments and those with normal speech. The subjects were 15 children with speech impairments and 15 children with normal speech, 3 to 5 years of age. The qualitative movement components of the standing long jump were measured with the Developmental Sequence of the Standing Long Jump (Van Sant, 1983). Subjects were videotaped while performing the standing long jump, and each jump was rated according to the Developmental Sequence. The quantitative variable of distance jumped was also measured. The analysis of data revealed no significant differences between the mean distance scores of the speech-impaired and normal-speech groups. However, data analysis did reveal a significant difference between the mean movement component rating scores of the two groups.

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Ian S. Howard and Piers Messum

Pronunciation is an important part of speech acquisition, but little attention has been given to the mechanism or mechanisms by which it develops. Speech sound qualities, for example, have just been assumed to develop by simple imitation. In most accounts this is then assumed to be by acoustic matching, with the infant comparing his output to that of his caregiver. There are theoretical and empirical problems with both of these assumptions, and we present a computational model—Elija—that does not learn to pronounce speech sounds this way. Elija starts by exploring the sound making capabilities of his vocal apparatus. Then he uses the natural responses he gets from a caregiver to learn equivalence relations between his vocal actions and his caregiver’s speech. We show that Elija progresses from a babbling stage to learning the names of objects. This demonstrates the viability of a non-imitative mechanism in learning to pronounce.

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Ronald Howard Cox, Jared Guth, Leah Siekemeyer, Brianna Kellems, Susan Baker Brehm and Christina M. Ohlinger

Background:

The effect of active workstation implementation on speech quality in a typical work setting remains unclear.

Purpose:

To assess differences between sitting, standing, and walking on energy expenditure and speech quality.

Methods:

Twenty-two females and 9 males read silently, read aloud, and spoke spontaneously during 3 postural conditions: sitting, standing, and walking at 1.61 km/h. Oxygen consumption (VO2), blood pressure, and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were obtained during each condition. Expert listeners, blinded to the purpose of the study and the protocol, assessed randomized samples of the participants’ speech during reading and spontaneous speech tasks in 3 postural conditions.

Results:

Standing elevated metabolic rate significantly over sitting (3.3 ± 0.7 vs. 3.6 ± 0.9 ml·kg−1·min−1). Walking at 1.6 km/h while performing the respective tasks resulted in VO2 values of 7.0 to 8.1 ml·kg−1·min−1. There was no significant difference in the average number of syllables included in each speech sample across the conditions. The occurrence of ungrammatical pauses was minimal and did not differ across the conditions.

Conclusion:

The significant elevation of metabolic rate in the absence of any deterioration in speech quality or RPE support the utility of using active work stations to increase physical activity (PA) in the work environment.

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Britta Grimme, Susanne Fuchs, Pascal Perrier and Gregor Schöner

This paper presents a comparative conceptual review of speech and limb motor control. Speech is essentially cognitive in nature and constrained by the rules of language, while limb movement is often oriented to physical objects. We discuss the issue of intrinsic vs. extrinsic variables underlying the representations of motor goals as well as whether motor goals specify terminal postures or entire trajectories. Timing and coordination is recognized as an area of strong interchange between the two domains. Although coordination among different motor acts within a sequence and coarticulation are central to speech motor control, they have received only limited attention in manipulatory movements. The biomechanics of speech production is characterized by the presence of soft tissue, a variable number of degrees of freedom, and the challenges of high rates of production, while limb movements deal more typically with inertial constraints from manipulated objects. This comparative review thus leads us to identify many strands of thinking that are shared across the two domains, but also points us to issues on which approaches in the two domains differ. We conclude that conceptual interchange between the fields of limb and speech motor control has been useful in the past and promises continued benefit.

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Mark L. Latash and Irina L. Mikaelian

We explored the relations between task difficulty and speech time in picture description tasks. Six native speakers of Mandarin Chinese (CH group) and six native speakers or Indo-European languages (IE group) produced quick and accurate verbal descriptions of pictures in a self-paced manner. The pictures always involved two objects, a plate and one of the three objects (a stick, a fork, or a knife) located and oriented differently with respect to the plate in different trials. An index of difficulty was assigned to each picture. CH group showed lower reaction time and much lower speech time. Speech time scaled linearly with the log-transformed index of difficulty in all subjects. The results suggest generality of Fitts’ law for movement and speech tasks, and possibly for other cognitive tasks as well. The differences between the CH and IE groups may be due to specific task features, differences in the grammatical rules of CH and IE languages, and possible use of tone for information transmission.

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Natalia Zharkova, Nigel Hewlett and William J. Hardcastle

There are still crucial gaps in our knowledge about developmental paths taken by children to adult-like speech motor control. Mature control of articulators during speaking is manifested in the appropriate extent of coarticulation (the articulatory overlap of speech sounds). This study compared lingual coarticulatory properties of child and adult speech, using ultrasound tongue imaging. The participants were speakers of Standard Scottish English, ten adults and ten children aged 6–9 years. Consonant-vowel syllables were presented in a carrier phrase. Distances between tongue curves were used to quantify coarticulation. In both adults and children, vowel pairs /a/-/i/ and /a/-/u/ significantly affected the consonant, and the vowel pair /i/-/u/ did not. Extent of coarticulation was significantly greater in the children than in the adults, providing support for the notion that children’s speech production operates with larger units than adults’. More within-speaker variability was found in the children than in the adults.