Swallowing Neurophysiology Lab Overview

The Swallowing Neurophysiology Laboratory (SNL) was founded by Ianessa Humbert, Ph.D. in 2008 in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The primary focus of the lab is to improve the lives of adults who have swallowing impairments (dysphagia) by researching swallowing function and treatments with a special emphasis on central nervous system control.

You study swallowing?

Most people don't believe us when we say we study swallowing (deglutition). They usually point to their neck and repeat the word "swallowing" slowly, to be sure we're all referring to the same behavior. Yes! We study swallowing. In particular, we study oropharyngeal swallowing, which involves moving food or liquids through your mouth (oral) and your pharynx (throat) in as little as 1 second. Swallowing is an ability that is incredibly important for life, vastly taken for granted, and significantly understudied.

SNL Research Focus

The next question is: "Why do you study swallowing"? We study swallowing because many people have swallowing impairments (dysphagia is the medical term). To be clear, we study oropharyngeal dysphagia, which encompasses swallowing problems that occur due to impairments of the oral cavity (mouth), the pharynx (throat), and/or the larynx (voice box). Oropharyngeal dysphagia can be particularly dangerous if it leads to malnutrition or dehydration, an outcome that most people conclude when thinking about swallowing impairment for the first time. However, most people are unaware of a symptom called aspiration. Aspiration occurs when ingested material enters the trachea. Think back to a time when you swallowed food and it went down "the wrong way". You probably coughed like crazy because food went into your larynx or trachea, instead of your esophagus. Coughing is your body's way of protecting your lungs from being invaded by swallowed food or liquids. Many people with swallowing problems aspirate regularly when eating or drinking. This is dangerous because it could lead to aspiration pneumonia, which can cause serious illness or death. In severe dysphagia when aspiration cannot be prevented with swallowing treatment, patients may agree to have artificial feedings (tube feeding)

Currently Funded Studies
The significance of research funding cannot be overstated in clinical investigation. Scientific funding is essential for training new scientists, discovering new diagnostic techniques and treatments, and keeping the lights on in the laboratory. We are fortunate to have been funded to continue our quest to improve the lives of individuals who suffer from swallowing impairments.

  • Applying motor learning principles to dysphagia rehabilitation
    Funding Source: National Institute of Child Health Development & American Heart Association

    Grant Number: 1R01DC01428501A1 (NIH), 14BGIA20380348 (AHA)

    Principal Investigator: Dr. Ianessa Humbert

    Public Health Relevance: Our overall goal is to exploit motor learning principles and adjuvant techniques in a novel way to enhance dysphagia rehabilitation. The proposed study will investigate the effects three forms of biofeedback on training. Also we will determine whether adjuvant therapeutic techniques such as non-invasive neural stimulation and reward augment training outcomes. The findings from this proposal have the potential to change the paradigm of dysphagia rehabilitation among multiple disciplines.
  • Effects of Aging on Swallowing Physiology with Transient Cortical Disruption
    Funding Source: National Institute of Child Health Development

    Grant Number: 5K23DC010776-05

    Principal Investigator: Dr. Ianessa Humbert

    Older adults are disproportionately affected by swallowing impairment, a condition that can lead to increased morbidity and death. Delayed initiation of swallowing is a common and devastating pathophysiology of neurogenic dysphagia, and is also experienced by healthy older adults, making functional swallowing less safe. The goals of this proposal are; (1) to understand the functional role of the primary sensory-motor cortex on swallowing initiation; (2) to characterize the effect of aging on swallowing initiation with transient cortical disruption; and, (3) for Dr. Humbert to obtain specialized training in neuroscience, sensory-motor control, and aging swallowing physiology.
  • Creating Swallowing Physiologists by Applying Physiology to Clinical Decision-Making
    Funding Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation

    Principal Investigator: Dr. Ianessa Humbert

    Speech-language pathology is the primary discipline that provides services to individuals with swallowing disorders (dysphagia). The overall goal of this project is to conduct evidence-based research on the use of physiologic information in SLP dysphagia practice. Improving SLP clinical practice can lead to more effective swallowing restoration and solidify the standing of SLPs as the swallowing experts in the medical team.

© Copyright Swallowing Systems Core 2015-2016 | Sitemap | Site by TBV