Divisions >> Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery >> Otolaryngology Surgery Update e-newsletter >> September 2015 Issue >> Research Spotlight
Parkinson’s disease research
Michelle Ciucci, PhD, and Nadine Connor, PhD, received a new research grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders entitled “Influence of neuromuscular pathology on parkinsonian communication deficits.” This 5-year award began on August 1, 2015, and provides $2.73 million in funding, with annual direct costs of $359,000. This work is based on new knowledge that pathology in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is widespread, including not only central nervous system regions, but also peripheral structures such as nerves and muscles involved in communication and swallowing. However, very little is known about how peripheral pathologies contribute to communication and swallowing deficits and when in the disease process these deficits emerge. Furthermore, it is unknown how behavioral treatments used clinically, such as exercise-based voice and swallow therapies, affect the manifestation of these deficits. These gaps in knowledge are being addressed in this work with a progressive, novel genetic rat model of PD: homozygous knock-out of PINK1, a gene mutation known to cause PD, comparing these rats to non-affected controls, and by manipulating exercise conditions. The Multiple PI (MPI) framework of the project is ideal for this work in that it pairs Dr. Ciucci’s independent research program in the area of PD-related voice and swallow neuroscience with Dr. Connor’s expertise in muscle physiology.
Laryngeal sensory and the voice
Michael Hammer, PhD, received a new research grant from the NIH National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders entitled “Sensory Interaction in Voice and Voice Disorders." This 5-year award began on August 1, 2015, and provides $1.92 million in funding, with annual direct costs of $250,000. Recent evidence suggests that sensory information from the larynx and from hearing interact to monitor voice production and to guide voice-related movements. However, the nature of laryngeal sensory monitoring and its interaction with auditory feedback are poorly understood. Work from Dr. Hammer’s laboratory suggests that the distinct voice disorders commonly observed in patients with Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia (ADSD) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD) may each be uniquely associated with abnormal laryngeal sensory and auditory monitoring of voice production. This view is reinforced by current approaches to voice therapy that emphasize the importance of sensory monitoring and by recent evidence of sensory responses to botulinum toxin. However, the distinct sensory mechanisms underlying each of these voice disorders and how these mechanisms may respond to intervention remain unknown. For this grant, Dr. Hammer and his team have developed a sensorimotor assessment battery to directly test sensory mechanisms of voice control in healthy participants and in clinical participants with ADSD and PD. These assessments will be immediately applied in the clinical setting to gauge severity and treatment response. This approach will substantially expand basic knowledge about the vocal sensorimotor system, and will offer powerful insights into the distinct sensory pathophysiology of ADSD and of PD. This grant builds on Dr. Hammer’s previous NIH-funded work, and will set the stage for future hypothesis-driven studies of the associated neural pathways and innovative sensory-based medical and behavioral approaches to voice care.