High-Resolution Three-Dimensional Hybrid MRI + Low Dose CT Vocal Tract Modeling: A Cadaveric Pilot Study

Published:October 27, 2022DOI:



      MRI based vocal tract models have many applications in voice research and education. These models do not adequately capture bony structures (e.g. teeth, mandible), and spatial resolution is often relatively low in order to minimize scanning time. Most MRI sequences achieve 3D vocal tract coverage at gross resolutions of 2 mm3 within a scan time of <20 seconds. Computed tomography (CT) is well suited for vocal tract imaging, but is infrequently used due to the risk of ionizing radiation. In this cadaveric study, a single, extremely low-dose CT scan of the bony structures is blended with accelerated high-resolution (1 mm3) MRI scans of the soft tissues, creating a high-resolution hybrid CT-MRI vocal tract model.


      Minimum CT dosages were determined and a custom 16-channel airway receiver coil for accelerated high (1 mm3) resolution MRI was evaluated. A rigid body landmark based partial volume registration scheme was then applied to the images, creating a hybrid CT-MRI model that was segmented in Slicer.


      Ultra-low dose CT produced images with sufficient quality to clearly visualize the bone, and exposed the cadaver to 0.06 mSv. This is comparable to atmospheric exposures during a round trip transatlantic flight. The custom 16-channel vocal tract coil produced acceptable image quality at 1 mm3 resolution when reconstructed from ∼6 fold undersampled data. High (1 mm3) resolution MR imaging of short (<10 seconds) sustained sounds was achieved. The feasibility of hybrid CT-MRI vocal tract modeling was successfully demonstrated using the rigid body landmark based partial volume registration scheme. Segmentations of CT and hybrid CT-MRI images provided more detailed 3D representations of the vocal tract than 2 mm3 MRI based segmentations.


      The method described in this study indicates that high-resolution CT and MR image sets can be combined so that structures such as teeth and bone are accurately represented in vocal tract reconstructions. Such scans will aid learning and deepen understanding of anatomical features that relate to voice production, as well as furthering knowledge of the static and dynamic functioning of individual structures relating to voice production.


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