facial exercise, non-speech task, speech, upper and lower lips, electromyography, lip kinematics


This paper describes a study that for the first time addresses the physiological effects of an 8-week mechanically aided facial exercise program, using the Facial-Flex device (Facial Concepts, Inc., Blue Bell, PA) with four healthy individuals with no motor, speech, language, or hearing problems. For a variety of non-speech and speech tasks, upper and lower lip muscle activity (EMG) and upper and lower lip movements were recorded at two baseline sessions (separated by 1 week) and immediately after an 8-week training period. The results indicate that after the training period, all four subjects showed an increase in the number of task repetitions and the duration of isometric contraction using the Facial-Flex device with a fixed resistance (Linebaugh tests). However, with respect to physiological changes as related to the exercise program, the results were mixed. Only one subject showed the expected significant increase in normalized EMG activity. This response was mirrored in a significant overall increase in movement range and peak velocity after the 8-week training period. Regarding the other three subjects, one subject showed no systematic training effect at all, whereas the remaining two subjects showed a significant increase in movement duration. Non-speech and speech tasks were found to be clearly different in their overall physiological characteristics; speech related movements were found to be more clearly defined in terms of larger amplitudes, shorter durations, higher peak velocities, and less variable movement cycles. The apparent discrepancy between the results of the Linebaugh tests and the physiological measures on specific oromotor tasks warrants some caution in drawing conclusions on changes in the oro-motor system based on general performance measures. Further studies with well-defined clinical populations are needed to assess the usefulness of this device as an aid in the treatment of speech disorders based on motor system impairments.