JUL 13, 2020 10:27 AM PDT

Can COVID-19 Be Diagnosed by Vocal Patterns?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from the Lincoln Laboratory have found early evidence that subtle changes in peoples' voices may indicate whether they have been infected by COVID-19- even before they develop symptoms. 

The idea that there may be vocal biomarkers for COVID-19 came to Thomas Quartieri, a senior staff member at the lab while watching the news. He and his team have previously found vocal biomarkers in people suffering from neurological disorders like ALS and Parkinson's. Given how COVID-19 affects the airways, and thus potentially speech production, they set out to investigate its effects. 

To do so, he and his team searched YouTube for clips of celebrities and TV hosts who had given interviews while infected with the virus and asymptomatic. They also sought out videos to compare their voices before infection. In total, they gathered data on five subjects. 

To detect speech differences, they used algorithms to extract features from the voice signals of each participant's audio. Pitch and steadiness of pitch were used as a proxy for the stability of vocal cords. Meanwhile, articulator movements (movement of the tongue, lips, jaw, etc.) were deduced from vocal quality, and movement in the respiratory system was measured by the amplitude of each signal or 'how loud' it was. 

In the end, they found that subjects tended to have less movement complexity in their speech after contracting COVID-19. 

"The coupling was less prominent between larynx and articulator motion, but we're seeing a reduction in complexity between respiratory and larynx motion," says Tanya Talkar, one of the study's authors. 

Although this early research suggests a link between the vocal system and COVID-19 infection, the researchers say that more data is needed before conclusions can be drawn. To this end, they are now working with a publicly released dataset from Carnegie Mellon University containing more audio samples of people with COVID-19. 

"A sensing system integrated into a mobile app could pick up on infections early before people feel sick or, especially, for these subsets of people who don't ever feel sick or show symptoms. This is also something the U.S. Army is interested in as part of a holistic COVID-19 monitoring system." says Jeffrey Palmer, lead author of the study.  

 

Sources: Neuroscience NewsIEEE

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
AUG 12, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Medicinal Cannabis May Help with Stuttering
AUG 12, 2021
Medicinal Cannabis May Help with Stuttering
Medicinal cannabis reduced treatment-resistant stuttering in a 20-year-old male patient. The case study was published in ...
AUG 24, 2021
Health & Medicine
Consciousness is so dop(amine)! Researchers show dopamine plays a key role in consciousness
AUG 24, 2021
Consciousness is so dop(amine)! Researchers show dopamine plays a key role in consciousness
Consciousness is complex, but researchers have found a key element: dopamine
SEP 07, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Genetic Influences That Help Make the Human Brain Unique
SEP 07, 2021
Genetic Influences That Help Make the Human Brain Unique
For years, many researchers have been trying to answer the question "What makes us human?" from both a biological and ph ...
SEP 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
The New Social Darwinists: It's All About Survival at Any Cost
SEP 14, 2021
The New Social Darwinists: It's All About Survival at Any Cost
Researchers have found that people who perceive social relations in general Darwinian terms tend toward various personal ...
OCT 11, 2021
Cancer
Different Cancer Types Metastasize to Specific Regions of the Brain
OCT 11, 2021
Different Cancer Types Metastasize to Specific Regions of the Brain
Metastatic cancer occurs when cancer spreads from its original site of origin to a distant location in the body. Wh ...
OCT 08, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
The Synergistic Mystery of the Entourage Effect
OCT 08, 2021
The Synergistic Mystery of the Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is a much talked about characteristic attributed with the unique psychoactive effects associated wi ...
Loading Comments...