According to a story from tdn.com, the radio host Jamie Dupree will soon return to work after nearly a two year absence. However, he will not be doing any announcing himself anymore. Instead, he is using a text-to-speech application that draws from years of preserved audio of his voice from over the years to create speech. The reason for this change is that Jamie got a rare type of dystonia that affects his ability to speak.
Dystonia is rare and unusual neurological disorder that is characterized by repetitive movements and muscle contractions that can result in abnormal postures. The movements can resemble a tremble and often worsen with physical activity. Symptoms can progress to affect more muscles over time. The cause of dystonia varies; in some cases, the cause is unknown, but it can be caused by brain inflammation, drug reactions, and head injuries. Repetitive use of certain muscles can cause those muscles to be affected; this is called focal dystonia, and this is the form that affects Jamie. They appear in people who require precise muscle function, such as artists or musicians. There are some medications and management approaches that can provide some relief, but there is no real cure. To learn more about dystonia, click here.
Jamie’s symptoms began to appear during a trip to London, where he appeared to have a stomach bug or food poisoning. However, his symptoms did not recede. His heart was racing and he was often stuck with stomach problems. His voice also began to change; it was weak and squeaky. Eventually, doctors were able to stabilize his heart and digestive problems, but his voice continued to worsen. When he tried to speak, his tongue would involuntarily get in the way and keep him from finishing a sentence.
After months of confusion, Jamie was finally diagnosed with mandibular protrusion dystonia, in which any attempt to speak is disrupted by random tongue movements. His vocal chords themselves seemed affected too, and Jamie’s voice no longer has its distinct, rich character that made it ideal for radio.
Jamie has been using “sensory tricks”— essentially an extra stimulus that allows the way the brain controls the muscles to return to normal temporarily. But the effect is too brief to really help him on the job. While he searches for treatment options, such as botulinum injection, he will have to be content with his artificial radio voice, which he calls “Jamie Dupree 2.0.”