UTHSC Assistant Professor Shalini Narayana Receives $677,385 Grant for Parkinson’s Disease Research

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded Dr. Shalini Narayana a $677,385 grant that will allow her and research team to determine if non-invasive brain stimulation can improve the effectiveness of voice therapy of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded Dr. Shalini Narayana a $677,385 grant that will allow her and her research team to determine if non-invasive brain stimulation can improve the effectiveness of voice therapy of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Shalini Narayana, PhD, assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, and Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $677,385 from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Dr. Narayana and her research team are testing to determine if non-invasive brain stimulation can improve the effectiveness of voice therapy.

The award will support a project titled, “Augmenting Treatment Effects of Voice Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease,” and will be distributed over a three-year period.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease frequently suffer from speech and voice disorders that adversely affect their communication and quality of life. Medications that help other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are not very effective in treating speech and voice symptoms, but intensive voice therapy has been shown to be helpful. Recently, non-invasive brain stimulation has gained recognition as a useful treatment tool and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating depression and migraine.

The study will examine speech and voice quality, voice box function and brain activity before and after patients receive voice therapy and brain stimulation or voice therapy alone. The researchers hope to demonstrate that non-invasive brain stimulation improves speech and voice quality at a quicker pace, and that the improvements in communication will be long lasting. It is expected that non-invasive brain stimulation will improve voice box function as well as strengthen the connections between brain areas that are engaged during speaking.

This study will provide free voice therapy and access to neurology, otolaryngology, and speech and voice clinics to people with Parkinson’s disease in Memphis and the surrounding greater Mid-South area. The findings from this study will lay the foundation for future large-scale studies to examine the usefulness of brain stimulation as an additional treatment to improve speech and limb motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. The results from this study will also form the basis for future studies aimed at understanding how various treatments in Parkinson’s disease mediate changes in brain function.

“I am very excited about this research project,” said Dr. Narayana. “This research demonstrates a great collaboration between neurologists, speech pathologists, and neuroscientists as well as between two major institutions in Memphis, UTHSC and University of Memphis.”

As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to accelerating a cure for Parkinson’s disease and improved therapies for those living with the condition today. The Foundation pursues its goals through an aggressively funded, highly targeted research program coupled with active global engagement of scientists, Parkinson’s patients, business leaders, clinical trial participants, donors and volunteers. In addition to funding more than $450 million in research to date, the Foundation has fundamentally altered the trajectory of progress toward a cure. Operating at the hub of worldwide Parkinson’s research, the Foundation forges groundbreaking collaborations with industry leaders, academic scientists and government research funders; increases the flow of participants into Parkinson’s disease clinical trials with its online tool, Fox Trial Finder; promotes Parkinson’s awareness through high-profile advocacy, events and outreach; and coordinates the grassroots involvement of thousands of Team Fox members around the world.

For more information, visit the Foundation on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.