Houri K. Vorperian, PhD

Position title: Senior Scientist, Waisman Center

Houri K. Vorperian, PhD

PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contact Information

Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Room 481
Madison, WI 53705
Lab Website: Vocal Tract Development Lab

Research Statement

The oral and pharyngeal cavities making up the vocal tract undergo changes in size, shape, and relative proportions during the growth process from infancy through early childhood and adolescence.Such anatomic changes in the vocal tract are related to changes in speech acoustics. My research interest is to understand the relation between developmental changes in the vocal tract to changes in speech acoustics. This has not been adequately investigated due to the scarcity of quantitative information on the anatomic remodeling of the vocal tract during development. Thus, a primary objective of the Vocal Tract Development Lab is to quantitatively characterize the anatomic restructuring of the vocal tract, and to model its growth in typically developing individuals and in individuals with documented speech disorders partially due to structural differences secondary to chromosomal aberration, namely Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome (DS). This goal is being addressed by examining imaging studies (MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging & CT – Computerized Tomography studies) that span the entire developmental period (birth to maturity), and securing a large set of predefined linear and volumetric measurements.

Specific issues being examined include: a) the growth rate of the different vocal tract structures; b) the relative rates of growth of the bony and soft tissue vocal tract structures; c) the coordinated growth of the different vocal tract structures, specifically functionally related structures; d) growth spurts, and synchrony in growth spurts; e) the ideal index to document and predict the growth of the vocal tract structures; f) gender related differences in the growth of the vocal tract structures; g) comparison of growth patterns pre versus post adolescence; h) anatomic growth similarities and differences in normal children and children with Trisomy 21. The findings of this study will contribute to knowledge on craniofacial development, and are of theoretical and clinical significance particularly in the areas of feeding skills, speech development, and speech production.

For additional information, please visit the Vocal Tract Development Laboratory website.

This research is supported by a grants from the National Institute of Health – National Institute of Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders (NIH/NIDCD Grant # R03-DC 4362 & R01-DC 006282). Also, a core grant to the Waisman Center from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH-NICHD Grant # P30-HD03352).

Selected Publications