Vocal Biomarkers Assessment of Pediatric TBI

Many injuries of the body are identifiable with external measures, but not so with brain injuries. This is an important problem, as there are many ways to injure our brains, especially as children. The classic test for a concussion is to see if you can follow a ball or finger traveling in a circle with your eyes, which can be automated using eye tracking and a screen. But this still leaves much to be desired.

Similar coordination tests can be studied using the voice. Producing speech requires the coordinated action of many different muscle groups, all tied together with perception and feedback to the motor system. When something goes wrong in the brain, it will likely show up in the voice, where perhaps it can be measured more easily and less invasively than anywhere else. My colleagues and I at MIT Lincoln Laboratory studied the vocal patterns produced by 10 children over the first year following a severe traumatic brain injury. We investigated several kinds of acoustic vocal measures and evaluate their performance.