Preclinical Speech Science: A Cool Stroll through the Forest
by Gary Weismer & Jeannette Hoit
Every discipline has its “trial by fire” entry-level courses; in the field of speech-language pathology, the speech science course is one of those. Students often see speech science as a walk across the hot coals of anatomy, physiology, and acoustic output of the speech apparatus. Our view is that it should be more like a stroll through a beautiful forest, with vegetation and wildlife that is so interesting you can’t help but stop and admire it, ooh and ah over the relationship between structure and function of a plant here, an animal there, and want to remember the details of this new and intricate world because you just know that understanding it will be useful to you in the future.
There have been many great speech science textbooks over the years, and almost certainly many more to come. When we set out to write the first edition of Preclinical Speech Science: Anatomy, Physiology, Acoustics, Perception, we asked ourselves the question, ‘Why write yet another speech science text?’ Our answer was that we wanted to 1) present the kind of beautiful images, coordinated with easy-to-read, straightforward text, that would make students want to stroll, stopping frequently, through this beautiful forest of knowledge that is the back country of speech-language pathology, 2) expand greatly on the ‘other A&P’ (Acoustics and Perception), 3) update the speech physiology to include contemporary notions about how speech production works, and why it has clear relevance to the speech-language pathologist’s daily practice, 4) include examples of clinical applications of speech science in the forms of clinical scenarios and sidetracks, and 5) integrate the fundamentals of the anatomy and physiology of human swallowing, a knowledge base that has become increasingly important over the years in the training of speech-language pathologists. We also wanted an accompanying workbook that would contain problems ranging from the easy, memorization type to those requiring a fair amount of thought.
But every rose has its missing petals, as did ours, which even those who admired our text were quick to point out. Our missing petal was a chapter on the brain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), in coordination with other government agencies, had identified the period between 1990 and 2000 as “The Decade of the Brain,” and indeed during those ten years there was an explosion of research on the relationships among neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, brain lesions in a host of diseases, and behavior. This explosion was heard throughout the speech science world as well, and continues to resonate with speech-language professionals to the present day. The brain processes underlying speech and language behavior, both normal and impaired,
are under heavy scientific and clinical scrutiny and speech-language pathologists need to be well-versed in this area. With an ever-increasing aging population and its associated neurogenic diseases and their potential to affect speech-language behaviors, most training programs are putting added emphasis on a deep understanding of brain structures and mechanisms as they relate to communication. So in our second edition of Preclinical Speech Science, we have tried to enhance the rose with a new petal—a full chapter devoted to neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and brain processes and models specific to speech production and perception. In preparing this chapter, we retained our devotion to high quality images and patient, comprehensive text to make those images relevant and highly accessible as a new source of knowledge for the student. We also showed how contemporary models of brain function in speech production are relevant to the diagnosis and management of disorders such as dysarthria and apraxia of speech.
In our writing of the new edition of Preclinical Speech Science, we have also updated much of the information in the original chapters, fixed mistakes, and prepared a new workbook to accompany it. We urge you to give it a try, stop to smell the anatomical, physiological, acoustic and perceptual roses in the forest. If you allow your eyes to linger for a while on the wonderful images drawn by Maury Aaseng and think about what’s written in the text, we think you’ll find the ground less like a bed of coals and more like a cool stroll. And your knowledge of all things speech science will make you cool in the eyes of your fellow health care professionals!