Differences in Velopharyngeal Structure during Speech among Asians Revealed by 3-Tesla Magnetic Resonance Imaging Movie Mode

Biomed Res Int. 2015:2015:126264. doi: 10.1155/2015/126264. Epub 2015 Jul 26.


Objective: Different bony structures can affect the function of the velopharyngeal muscles. Asian populations differ morphologically, including the morphologies of their bony structures. The purpose of this study was to compare the velopharyngeal structures during speech in two Asian populations: Japanese and Thai.

Methods: Ten healthy Japanese and Thai females (five each) were evaluated with a 3-Tesla (3 T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner while they produced vowel-consonant-vowel syllable (/asa/). A gradient-echo sequence, fast low-angle shot with segmented cine and parallel imaging technique was used to obtain sagittal images of the velopharyngeal structures.

Results: MRI was carried out in real time during speech production, allowing investigations of the time-to-time changes in the velopharyngeal structures. Thai subjects had a significantly longer hard palate and produced shorter consonant than Japanese subjects. The velum of the Thai participants showed significant thickening during consonant production and their retroglossal space was significantly wider at rest, whereas the dimensional change during task performance was similar in the two populations.

Conclusions: The 3 T MRI movie method can be used to investigate velopharyngeal function and diagnose velopharyngeal insufficiency. The racial differences may include differences in skeletal patterns and soft-tissue morphology that result in functional differences for the affected structures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine / methods*
  • Male
  • Palate / anatomy & histology*
  • Palate / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Speech Production Measurement / methods*
  • Thailand / ethnology
  • Velopharyngeal Sphincter / anatomy & histology*
  • Velopharyngeal Sphincter / physiology*