Fluoroscopic image from a swallow evaluation

RESEARCH MISSION AND GOALS: The UAD engages in research aimed at improving health outcomes and quality of life associated with disorders of airway protection.  To that end, we employ a two-pronged approach including both basic science and clinical research.  Basic science research goals focus on developing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying airway protection and its disorders.  Clinical research goals are the development of novel and robust evaluation and treatment techniques for speech, swallowing and cough disorders.  Our current projects focus on multiple behaviors contributing to airway protection and the ability to modify those behaviors via non-pharmacological treatment paradigms.  Research participants include healthy volunteers, people with Parkinson’s disease, and other movement disorders.

Ongoing studies

IRB202301062 – currently enrolling

Characterization of deep brain stimulation impacts on respiratory function in Parkinson disease

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is commonly used in Parkinson disease (PD). The impacts of DBS on breathing and its relationship with swallowing are not understood. This is of particular concern because both breathing and swallowing deficits occur at high rates in PD. As such, this study aims to determine the impacts of bilateral DBS in PD on 1) ventilatory drive and output, 2) sensory and motor response to extrinsic respiratory perturbation, and 3) the coordination of breathing and swallowing.

If interested in participating in this study, please contact May Smith-Hublou at

IRB202300118 – currently enrolling

Low utilization of deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy among minoritized individuals with Parkinson disease

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery is an elective surgery offered to Parkinson disease (PD) patients who meet certain symptom criteria. African American and other minoritized patients experience higher barriers to access care in most healthcare areas, including PD neurology and rehabilitation care. This study explores predictors of DBS referral and post-surgical outcomes.

If interested in participating in this study, please contact Bryn Taylor at

IRB202300326 – enrollment complete

Characterizing Swallow-Breathing Coordination under Controlled Versus Naturalistic Conditions in Healthy Adults

This study will compare swallow-breathing coordination (SBC) in healthy adults under less controlled conditions that better mimic daily mealtime environments and SBC under tightly controlled swallowing task conditions, which is what is reported most often in the literature. Potential findings may contribute to a better understanding of how SBC relates to dysphagia symptoms, and aid in the development of swallow interventions with greater generalizability.

IRB202101196 – enrollment complete

Characterization of Sensorimotor Cough Function in Atypical Parkinsonism

This study will characterize sensorimotor cough in atypical Parkinsonism and determine the differences between natural and suppressed cough thresholds during reflex cough tests. We will compare prospective data to existing cough data in Parkinson’s and healthy older adults. Potential findings may facilitate differential diagnoses and inform clinicians about diagnostic approaches to detect disordered cough and potentially prolong pulmonary health.

IRB201700959 – enrollment complete

Mechanisms of Airway protection Dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease

Aspiration pneumonia (APn) occurs at a disproportionately high rate in patients with parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease (PD), compared to healthy age-matched older adults. This study aims to determine the underlying causative factors that contribute to airway protection deficits in PD and parkinsonism (MSA or PSP) in order to reduce the incidence of aspiration-related illness in these patients.

IRB202001307 – Enrollment complete

Impact of COVID-19 on communication in people with Parkinson’s disease

The purpose of this study is to gather information about how social distancing measures, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, affect communication effectiveness in people with PD, who are likely to have difficulty communicating at baseline.

IRB201902794 – enrollment complete

Speech and Swallow Changes with Deep Brain Stimulation in PD: A Retrospective Study

Deep brain stimulation is used to treat patients with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD). While the implications of speech and swallow function pre-surgically have not been extensively mapped to their post-surgical outcomes, some studies that have identified decline in speech and/or swallowing post-surgically. To date, there is little evidence regarding which DBS target site(s), laterality, or number of leads is/are better or worse for speech and swallow function in patients with PD.

IRB201602473 – Enrollment complete

Differentiating typical and atypical Parkinson’s disease using speech assessment

The purpose of the study is to determine whether speech assessment clinical data can be used to identify patients with typical Parkinson’s disease versus those with atypical forms of Parkinsonism. We hope to use this data to investigate differences is speech-assessment metrics between Parkinson’s disease and Atypical Parkinson’s patients that could prove useful diagnostic markers in differentiating the diseases.