A wearable neuromodulation device for treatment for the voice disorder spasmodic dysphonia

The Human Sensorimotor Control Laboratory led by Dr. Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D investigation efforts focus on the use of vibro-tactile stimulation as a non-invasive neuromodulation technique to treat symptoms of focal dystonia of the voice and neck. A wearable device for treatment for the voice disorder spasmodic dysphonia Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a voice disorder that leads to strained or choked speech. Unfortunately, SD is unresponsive to speech therapy. Currently, the primary treatment is Botulinum toxin injection that provides temporary symptom relief. The preliminary work done in Dr. Konczak's lab showed that voice quality in SD improves when vibrotactile stimulation (VTS) is applied to the larynx, a non-invasive form of neuromodulation. What is needed is a device that applies VTS and can be worn by patients during daily life. This project seeks to design and build such a device and to test it with a sample of patients.

For this effort to succeed, the project involves close collaboration between engineers, motor control scientists, and voice disorder clinicians. The project is supported by the U of M’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), MnDrive grant in brain conditioning, National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Grant, and National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA). In a new research study funded by the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA), they now investigate the benefits of the VTS approach for improving the voice symptoms of people with abductor SD (ABSD). Study participants will administer VTS using the developed wearable device for 1 hour. Researchers will assess their voice quality and monitor the corresponding neurophysiological changes in the brain using electroencephalography in the laboratory. The findings of the study will inform patients and clinicians on the possible impact of this therapeutic approach.

Dr. Jürgen Konczak is the primary investigator of this project. Other members of this interdisciplinary research team include: Dr. Peter Watson, a voice disorder specialist and faculty in the U of M Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, and Dr. Lucy Dunne, an expert in wearable devices and Co-Director, Wearable Technology Lab in Department of Design. Dr. George Goding from the Department of Otolaryngology represents the clinical partner in the team. He is an expert in SD and treats these patients regularly in the U of M Lion’s Voice Clinic. Dr. Arash Mahnan, the former lead who is now at Facebook, and Jiapeng Xu from HSCL complement the team.

SD Collar
Spasmodic Dysphonia Collar