& music compose a master’s degree research medley
It was an unlikely collaboration of three departments –
physical therapy, music, and communication sciences and disorders
– to explore the question of how to better rehabilitate
abdominal muscles for vocal control following surgery.
It’s also an example of how master’s degree students
contribute to the creation of new knowledge.
The project was completed this past spring in partial fulfillment
of requirements for the Master of Physical Therapy degree by Chris
Huravitch of Williston, Nyle Relay of White Bear Lake, Minn.,
and Kristine Shulte of Fargo.
In the study, 11 individuals with choral experience were recruited
from the community. Electrodes were placed on the left side of
their abdomens, over the motor points of three muscles. The researchers
compared contractions in these muscles during three intensities
Supervising the work was Royce Blackburn, assistant professor
of music, and Susan Jeno, assistant professor of physical therapy.
Wayne Swisher, chair of the Department of Communication Sciences
and Disorders, consulted on the protocol.
The study documented significant differences in abdominal muscular
activity when singing at three different intensities. These findings
are likely to lead to more research to fully understand the relationship
between vocalization and abdominal musculature.
The potential benefits are obvious: possible new techniques for
physical therapists, speech pathologists, and other professionals
in helping patients with vocal deficits or injuries.
At his studio on the western side of the campus, Blackburn said
the project was a learning experience for him, and used a musical
metaphor to describe his brush with medical research.
"In scientific study, you have to whittle things down to
one measure at a time," he explained.