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Watch High-Speed MRI Images of Someone Singing "If I Only Had a Brain"

Anyone who has had an MRI knows that when you get in the machine, you have to remain pretty still or risk messing up the scan, which captures about 10 frames per second. But to study how the approximately 100 muscles in the human head, neck, jaw, tongue, and lips work together to create speech and song, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois has developed new technology that allows MRIs to capture 100 frames per second. They demonstrated the technology with a video of someone singing The Wizard of Oz classic "If I Only Had a Brain" (above).

It all started when Aaron Johnson, an affiliate faculty member in the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute and an assistant professor at Illinois (and a former professional singer) wanted to find out if training seniors at retirement communities to sing in groups would make for stronger larynxes—and, therefore, more powerful voices. “The neuromuscular system and larynx change and atrophy as we age, and this contributes to a lot of the deficits that we associate with the older voice, such as a weak, strained, or breathy voice,” Johnson said in a press release. “I’m interested in understanding how these changes occur, and if interventions, like vocal training, can reverse these effects. In order to do this, I need to look at how the muscles of the larynx move in real time.”

But capturing real-time articulation with a typical MRI machine wouldn't be possible. So Zhi-Pei Liang, an electrical and computer engineering professor, and his team at Beckman, as well as a group led by Brad Sutton, technical director of Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center BIC and associate professor in bioengineering, developed and refined the high-speed imaging technique, which they described in a recent issue of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

“The technique excels at high spatial and temporal resolution of speech—it’s both very detailed and very fast,” Sutton said. “Often you can have only one of these in MR imaging. We have designed a specialized acquisition method that gathers the necessary data for both space and time in two parts and then combines them to achieve high-quality, high-spatial resolution, and high-speed imaging.” To capture the audio, the team used a noise-cancelling fiber-optic microphone and synced it with the imaging later.

“We have a very dynamic community at the Beckman Institute and Illinois working on this, from engineers to linguists, and we’re able to measure things with MRI in ways we couldn’t have just a couple of years ago,” Sutton said. “But what makes it worthwhile is having people like Aaron who ask the scientific questions that drive our research forward.” 

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© 2017 USPS
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Pop Culture
Speedy Delivery: Mister Rogers Will Get His Own Stamp in 2018
© 2017 USPS
© 2017 USPS

USPS 2018 Mister Rogers stamp
© 2017 USPS

After weeks of mailing out this year’s holiday cards, postage might be the last thing you want to think about. But the U.S. Postal Service has just given us a sneak peek at the many iconic people, places, and things that will be commemorated with their own stamps in 2018, and one in particular has us excited to send out a few birthday cards: Mister Rogers.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers’s groundbreaking PBS series that the USPS says “inspired and educated young viewers with warmth, sensitivity, and honesty,” the mail service shared a mockup of what the final stamp may look like. On it, Rogers—decked out in one of his trademark colorful cardigans (all of which were hand-knitted by his mom, by the way)—smiles for the camera alongside King Friday XIII, ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Though no official release date for Fred’s forever stamp has been given, Mister Rogers is just one of many legendary figures whose visages will grace a piece of postage in 2018. Singer/activist Lena Horne will be the 41st figure to appear as part of the USPS’s Black Heritage series, while former Beatle John Lennon will be the face of the newest Music Icons collection. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will also be honored.

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Can You Spot the Christmas Pudding?

Whether it’s a sheep hanging out with Santa Claus or a panda bear hiding among some snowmen, regular Mental Floss readers know that hidden picture brainteasers are one of our favorite things. And the optical experts at Lenstore.co.uk have released a delicious one, just in time for Christmas. Somewhere in the midst of all these holiday-themed goodies above, there’s a holiday pudding just waiting to be discovered. Can you spot it? Your time starts … now.

If you give up, or are the kind of person who reads the last page of a book before the first one and just wants to know the answer, scroll down to see where it’s hiding.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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