Researchers at The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary to Study Troubling Voice Disorder With NIH Grant

New York, NY (November 7, 2007) -- The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary has been awarded a $275,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the cause of spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that triggers involuntary “spasms” of the vocal cords and causes a whispering or severely strained voice.

According to the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, the voice disorder affects over 50,000 Americans and can seriously impair an individual’s professional, social and family interactions. Its cause is not known, and even the most effective current treatments, such as botox injections, are temporary.

“This research will allow us to observe the nerve impulses sent from the brain to the vocal folds of patients with spasmodic dysphonia in a way that has never been possible before,” said Michael Pitman, MD, director of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary’s Division of Laryngology and The Voice and Swallowing Institute. “We believe it will open a window to better understand the dysfunction and where in the brain it is occurring. If we can identify the origin of the disorder, it will aid in discovering a cure.”

The research effort, to begin in December, 2007, will be led by Rick M. Roark, PhD at the Voice and Swallowing Institute, who will focus on identifying specific motor neuron firing patterns that occur during vocal spasms. Advanced equipment such as multi-dimensional physiologic and artificial intelligence technologies will be used.

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the oldest specialty hospital in the Western Hemisphere, is an affiliated teaching hospital of the New York Medical College. It has approximately 142,000 outpatient visits annually and over 20,000 surgical procedures per year. It has one of the nation’s most extensive eye, ear, nose and throat clinics.


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