Developed at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, researchers use a new technique that is 10 times faster than standard MRI scanners to illustrate how the hundreds of muscles in our neck, jaw, tongue, and lips work together to produce sound. (Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois)

This is either fascinating, incredibly creepy, or both. Probably both. But also science!

[This creepy video was taken by a digital camera that never needs power]

The video wasn't created for an all-MRI production of "The Wizard of Oz." It's an example of a high-speed, high-resolution MRI technique. The technique, which is being developed by the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute, acquires about 100 frames per second. A description of the technique was published Tuesday in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

Working about 10 times faster than a standard MRI, the machine was able to pick up the muscular nuances required for singing.

[Birdsong and human speech turn out to be controlled by the same genes]

You can see the vocal folds hard at work creating the tune. These two flaps inside the larynx sit over the windpipe, coming together whenever we're not breathing. Air passes through the closed folds, causing them to vibrate. We use our larynx to control the tension of our vocal folds, which changes the pitch of our vocalizations.

The researchers weren't just goofing off in order to display the MRI's capabilities: The high-speed and high-resolution images help them keep tabs on the tongue and neck muscles during vocalization. They're hoping to learn more about what health vocalization looks like, and whether or not singing can be used as a therapy to help the elderly regain more control over their speech.

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