Researcher Develops Swallowing Intervention for Parkinson’s Disease Laura Pitts looks for ways to help people with neurogenic disorders strengthen their swallow. Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions  |   April 01, 2017
Researcher Develops Swallowing Intervention for Parkinson’s Disease
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Article Information
Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Foundational Questions
Foundational Questions   |   April 01, 2017
Researcher Develops Swallowing Intervention for Parkinson’s Disease
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, online only. doi:10.1044/
Laura Pitts, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Northern Iowa
ASHFoundation support:
  • 2013 ASHA Research Conference Travel Grant

  • 2012 Clinical Research Grant ($50,000), “Lingual Training in Parkinson’s Disease: Implications for Dysphagia Rehabilitation”

What is the focus of your research?
The focus of the ASHFoundation Clinical Research Grant was to explore tongue strength and lingual pressure control in people with Parkinson’s disease. It investigated the relation of lingual pressure patterns to videofluoroscopy of swallowing (VFS) parameters and swallowing-related quality of life. The project also collected pilot data on the application of a combined lingual strengthening and control intervention for persons with Parkinson’s and lingual dysfunction.
How did your award from the ASHFoundation lead to your current work?
The ASHFoundation grant helped to develop teams of researchers, neuroscientists, speech-language pathologists and physicians who continued collaborations on dysphagia projects following the conclusion of the ASHFoundation grant. Subsequent projects further explored lingual-pressure generation and clinical swallowing outcome measures in various neurogenic disorders, including people with Parkinson’s disease or Parkinsonism, stroke survivors, and people post-traumatic brain injury. It also led to investigations of the application of transcranial stimulation to the lingual cortex in healthy controls and in people with neurogenic dysphagia.
What do you hope to demonstrate through your research—or what has it already demonstrated?
Results from the ASHFoundation grant demonstrated that deficits in lingual-pressure generation are related to swallowing-related quality of life and to VFS measures in Parkinson’s disease. The piloted lingual training data suggest that specific patient profiles with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease may benefit most from a combined tongue-strengthening and control intervention.
Why did you choose this particular research focus?
My interest in studying Parkinson’s disease began when I was working clinically as an SLP at a regional health care center in acute care and inpatient rehabilitation. In this role, I had the opportunity to work with the Parkinson’s disease support group. The more I listened to the members of the support group, the more I was inspired to seek answers to some of their questions.
How has ASHFoundation funding affected your professional life?
The ASHFoundation grant was instrumental in providing mentorship and collaborations during my postdoctoral fellowship and collaborations following the conclusion of the project. It provided me the opportunity to learn from Leora R. Cherney, who continues to be a collaborator at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and with Jerilyn A. Logemann, whose memory I will cherish. The ASHFoundation grant also resulted in new collaborations with researchers and clinicians with specialties in neurorehabilitation within our local health care network, across the U.S., and internationally.
April 11, 2017
Alina Carter
I believe the published word "nuerogentic" is a typo for neurogenic.
April 12, 2017
Carol Polovoy
Thank you
Thanks for pointing out that error. We have corrected it!
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April 2017
Volume 22, Issue 4