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sidehead Activities-old * Imaging & Modeling * Fast Fluid Flow * Inverse Modeling * OSA * Mastication and Swallowing * Dysphagia ---- Publications


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Computer simulation of human anatomy is expected to become an increasingly useful tool in medical research, diagnosis, and treatment. The OPAL project improves the state of the art of such simulation by creating a complete computer model of the mouth and throat region, and using it to study several important medical disorders. These include obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) (interrupted breathing during sleep), which afflicts an estimated twelve million Americans and can lead to complications such as heart disease; difficulty in swallowing as caused by stroke; and treating impairments of chewing and swallowing caused by surgery. Treatment of these conditions can be difficult because they involve complicated interactions between the nerves, muscles, and tissues of the mouth-throat region. Our model will help us better understand these interactions. Our project is divided into four main components: imaging & modeling, fluid simulation within the upper airway, inverse modeling of the upper airway and OSA dysphasia applications.

For this project, we will create various upper airway models containing the jaw, tongue, lips, throat, and surrounding structures and simulate their physical behaviour and motion including fluid flow within them. These models will then allow us to answer questions such as "how do the nerves and muscles work together when we chew and swallow?" and "under what conditions will the tongue fall back and close the airway?". New techniques will be developed for improving the simulation's speed, with the goal of making it interactive. In collaboration with medical specialists, our model is used to investigate causes and treatments for the medical conditions described above. Finally, we study how medical imaging data can be used fit models to individual patients, ultimately allowing it to be used as a clinical treatment tool. For example, a patient-specific model may be able to predict the side effects of surgery, or determine if a sleep apnea patient is a good candidate for treatment with a nighttime dental fixture. Our modeling efforts use ArtiSynth, an advanced 3D biomechanical toolkit.

Our project is highly interdisciplinary, combining computer science, physics, biomechanics, physiology, anatomy, and medicine, and provides significant contributions to biomedicine, computer simulation, medical image processing, and the understanding and treatment of a variety of medical disorders.

We gratefully acknowledge our funding partners:

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI)
Zak Technologies Inc.
Northern Digital Inc (NDI)