Published January 14, 2021
Patients with Parkinson’s disease who are treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS) generally have unpredictable and varied speech outcomes after DBS surgery. Their speech can worsen, stay the same or even slightly improve.
To help solve the mystery, a UB speech scientist and her research team have received a $3.1 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study speech and movement among Parkinson’s patients receiving DBS treatment.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the project is that we are studying neural activity in the brain while patients are awake and talking as they are undergoing DBS surgery, comparing brain activity during speaking to brain activity during a limb motor task,” says co-investigator Kris Tjaden, professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences and associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Jeremy Greenlee, a neurosurgeon from the University of Iowa and principal investigator on the project, will perform the DBS surgeries at the University of Iowa, while the team obtains audio recordings of the patient’s speech. The recordings then will be analyzed in Tjaden’s Motor Speech Laboratory on the South Campus.
Members of Tjaden’s lab will perform all of the speech acoustic analyses, including instrumental measures of voice quality, pitch and intensity, measures of articulatory precision, and speech durations. The team will also obtain listener perceptual judgments of speech intelligibility — a measure of functional communication.
“We have reason to hypothesize that differences in brain activity during speaking versus the limb task will help to predict, along with other factors, those patients whose functional speech ability — for example, intelligibility — declines substantially within a year post-surgery,” Tjaden explains.
The project, “Role of Subthalamic nucleus in Speech and Movement among people with Parkinson’s as Revealed by Intraoperative Recordings and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS),” had just begun enrolling participants when elective surgeries were suspended due to COVID-19. The surgeries are slated to resume mid-January, when the project will resume as well.
Collaborators also include neuroscientist Daniel Corcos from Northwestern University and statistician Charity Patterson from the University of Pittsburgh. The research grant runs through June 2025.