Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Richard D. Andreatta

Second Advisor

Dr. Patrick O. McKeon


The orofacial area stands apart from other body systems in that it possesses a unique performance anatomy whereby oral musculature inserts directly into the underlying cutaneous skin, allowing for the generation of complex three-dimensional deformations of the orofacial system. This anatomical substrate provides for the tight temporal synchrony between self-generated cutaneous somatosensation and oromotor control during functional behaviors in this region and provides the necessary feedback needed to learn and maintain skilled orofacial behaviors.

The Directions into Velocity of Articulators (DIVA) model highlights the importance of the bidirectional relationship between sensation and production in the orofacial region in children learning speech. This relationship has not been as well-established in the adult orofacial system. The purpose of this observational study was to begin assessing the perception-action relationship in healthy adults and to describe how this relationship may be altered as a function of healthy aging. This study was designed to determine the correspondence between orofacial cutaneous perception using vibrotactile detection thresholds (VDT) and low-level static and dynamic force control tasks in three representative age cohorts. Correlational relationships among measures of somatosensory capacity and low-level skilled orofacial force control were determined for 60 adults (19-84 years).

Significant correlational relationships were identified using non-parametric Spearman’s correlations with an alpha at 0.1 between the 5 Hz test probe and several 0.5 N low-level force control assessments in the static and slow ramp-and-hold condition. These findings indicate that as vibrotactile detection thresholds increase (labial sensation decreases), ability to maintain a low-level force endpoint decreases. Group data was analyzed using non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests and identified significant differences between the 5 Hz test frequency probe and various 0.5 N skilled force assessments for group variables such as age, pure tone hearing assessments, sex, speech usage and smoking history. Future studies will begin the processing of modeling this complex multivariate relationship in healthy individuals before moving to a disordered population.