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Muscle Noise

July 4, 2007

Listening to muscles could help monitor and diagnose problems.


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.

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.