I'm in my final year of a five-year combined Master's of Clinical Science and PhD in Speech-Language Pathology. Alongside my clinical training, I pursue research in the area of motor speech disorders with the Speech Movement Disorders Lab at Western using a combination of acoustic and perceptual techniques. I am particularly interested in speech in Parkinson's disease and devices and treatments that address the communication problems faced by individuals with hypokinetic dysarthria.
CORRELATES OF LOUDNESS IN HYPOPHONIA
Hypophonia may be the most common symptom associated with Parkinson's disease. This is most frequently assessed with sound pressure level (vocal intensity), which may not capture a full picture of the loudness deficits of hypophonia. Spectral considerations or broader acoustic characteristics may feed into our loudness judgments. As my dissertation work, I am investigating the acoustic underpinnings of perceived loudness to gain deeper insights into hypophonia and find new treatment avenues.
LEVODOPA & SPEECH
As part of a larger study into levodopa's effects on symptoms of Parkinson's disease, we have been looking into changes in speech symptoms off- and on-dopaminergic medication. Based on our voice quality findings, which were presented at the 2018 International Conference on Motor Speech and published in the Journal of Communication Disorders, we have proposed a speech symptom severity hypothesis, suggesting that responsiveness to levodopa is contingent on severity of symptoms off-medication. We are currently working to extend these findings to other areas of speech.
SPEECH IN NOISE:
Parkinson's disease commonly includes hypophonia (low speech intensity), which can interfere with intelligibility, communication and life participation. The Speech Movement Disorders Lab has multiple ongoing studies that investigate the nature of hypophonia, devices and treatments. The SMDL is currently evaluating a new treatment device designed to help individuals with hypophonia experience more success in a variety of communication contexts, with the help of funding from the Parkinson Society of Southwestern Ontario. This project and funding is discussed in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of the Parkinson's Update, available here.
Acoustic measures of speech and voice provide an objective, non-invasive window into speech production. The Speech Movement Disorders Lab investigates acoustic correlates of speech and voice, and the relationships between these acoustic measures and perceptual counterparts such as perceived voice quality and intelligibility.
BOTULINUM TOXIN &
Individuals with spasmodic dysphonia, a rare movement disorder affecting the larynx, may receive botulinum toxin to reduce symptoms. We are currently investigating different voice protocols immediately following injection to determine the protocol with maximum efficacy.