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Muscle Noise

July 4, 2007

Listening to muscles could help monitor and diagnose problems.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The audible arm. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Doctors listen to your heart and lungs; someday they could also listen to your muscles. Yes, your muscles make noise as they contract—if you listen carefully right now, you can barely hear the sound of a bicep, sped up so it’s audible. [bicep noise]. It was recoded by acoustician Karim Sabra of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who placed sensors along the bicep. His team shows it’s possible to use this noise to detect a muscle’s stiffness.

KARIM SABRA (Scripps Institution of Oceanography):
And the main idea is that if the muscle is stiff, waves propagate fast into it; if the muscle is soft, waves propagate slower.

HIRSHON:
The technique needs more work, but could prove useful for monitoring neuromuscular diseases or even diagnosing pulled tendons. And if it could cut down on the need for X-rays and MRIs.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.