Our research focuses on sensory and motor aspects of neural control for speech, voice, and swallowing function across the age and health spectrums. Recent work in this area includes

  1.  the use of neuroimaging to isolate the neural substrates responsible for modulating tongue movements, 
  2. examination of the effect of bolus properties such as taste, volume, and viscosity on swallowing biomechanics, and
  3. testing novel methods of tracking vocal use and orofacial muscle activity in functional and clinical environments. 

Current Projects
Neural Control of Modulated Tongue Force Study: 

We just completed recruitment of healthy 40-60 year-old adults for the preliminary phase of a functional neuroimaging (fMRI) study examining how the brain controls speech-related movements in higher versus lower demand circumstances. This will help us better understand why speech deteriorates in some neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and why the medical and surgical treatments for such diseases affect speech differently than other types of movement. The long-term goal of this work is to identify new strategies to maintain and improve speech function in neurodegenerative diseases. Participant recruitment for additional phases of the study is expected to begin in Fall 2017. Click here for more study information.

The Effects of Taste Manipulation on Brain Activity and Swallowing Mechanics:

    students programming taste dispensing pumps                        another view of taste dispensing pumps                   

A second set of studies will assess the effects of taste stimuli on brain activity and swallowing biomechanics. Participants will swallow differently flavored taste stimuli during moving x-rays of swallowing (videofluoroscopic swallowing studies; VFSS) and fMRI studies. The VFSS images will be analyzed using a coordinate system to track the many movements that occur simultaneously during a swallow. These results will be correlated to the results of the fMRI analysis of brain activity in key areas related to swallowing. The long-term objectives of this work are to identify taste profiles that have advantageous effects on swallowing, and then determine whether they can contribute to faster and more complete recovery after injury and illness. We are now recruiting for the initial phase of this study. Click here for more study information.