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Overview of The Audible Human Project (AHP)

T. J. Royston, H. A. Mansy (Rush), Zoujun Dai, Ying Peng, Brian Henry, Marco Mazzucco, R. H. Sandler (Rush), R. A. Balk (Rush)

Motivation

The Visible Human Project (VHP) of the National Library of Medicine has catalyzed the development of advanced visualization software that has aided in anatomy education and has been an invaluable resource to biomedical researchers. It has aided in the development of numerous technologies, with applications spanning from improving imaging technology to simulating surgical procedures. Our long-term goal is to develop a comparable “Audible Human Project” (AHP). This would accurately simulate the production, transmission and noninvasive measurement (for example using stethoscopes) of naturally-occurring sounds associated with cardiovascular, pulmonary and gastro-intestinal function. It would also model externally introduced sounds, for example via percussion at the skin surface.

Potential

Such a comprehensive tool would have a significant impact on medical education and research. It could catalyze the development of new inexpensive, portable auscultative methods, as well as more advanced multimode acoustic imaging modalities. From an educational perspective, recent studies have emphasized the continued importance of skilled auscultation in medicine and the fact that this skill is in decline among younger physicians. The AHP could help provide a more effective educational experience. A student would not just listen to audio recordings. He or she would be able to interactively vary anatomy and pathology, as well as sensor position, type and contact pressure, so as to hear, “see” and “feel” (if integrated within a haptic environment) the results and associate them with quantifiable metrics.

Current Focus

Our current efforts are aimed at developing and experimentally validating an an upper torso acoustic model focused on the pulmonary system. This model will simulate breath sound generation, transmission and measurement via contact sensors placed on the torso surface. It will also simulate the transmission and measurement of externally introduced sound via the airways or via percussion of the torso surface.

An Analogy: The Audible Car Project

If you are unfamiliar with elastography or are in high school looking for a brief introduction you should read about the car analogy. This will help you understand the motivation for the AHP, the potential benefits to medicine, and what the current focus is of the AHP.

The Theory of the AHP

The theory of AHP is richly based in mathematics, material properties such as viscoleasticity and wave phenomena such as attenuation. Although the fundamental theory of the AHP is grounded in simple wave behavior, simulations and experiments rely on more robust models to account for the complex material and shape of the human torso.

The mechanical properties of human tissue are not easily revealed neither through optical and audio sensors. However, the AHP uses an array of equipment to produce, verify, and observe wave transmission through its test subjects.