Christopher Watts, Ph.D. – Research

Parkinsonology

The overarching goal of this line of research is to expand human knowledge of how Parkinson’s disease (PD) effects laryngeal function in voice and swallowing to inform the development of more effective treatments to rehabilitate and/or sustain those functions. We are specifically interested in how voice and swallowing impairments manifest in different clinical phenotypes (e.g., subtypes) of PD. Our research investigates how voice and swallowing are influenced by PD tremor phenotype (e.g., tremor dominant vs. non-tremor dominant), age of onset (e.g., late onset vs. younger onset), sex, and years post-onset. A major aim of this research is to increase our understanding of how and why laryngeal function in voice and swallowing is impaired heterogeneously (differently) across the large population of people with PD.

Treatment Outcomes for Voice Disorders

The overarching goal of this line of research is to measure the effectiveness of treatments for voice disorders so that clinicians have access to research which might inform their evidence-based practice. Most recently, we have focused on the effectiveness of Stretch-and-Flow voice therapy, an approach which centers on the control of airflow during speech as a foundation upon which to rebalance the vocal subsystems. This line of applied research utilizes clinical trials and small group designs to measure clinical outcomes after a period of voice treatment (typically 6 to 8 weeks).  A major aim of this research is to determine which treatments provide a meaningful benefit to patient quality of life, improvement in physiological function, and enhancement of perceived communication effectiveness.

Instrumental Measures of Voice and Swallowing

The overarching goal of this line of research is to explore the utility of instrumental measures of voice and swallowing physiology within the context of clinical assessment and treatment. We utilize acoustic, aerodynamic, and electrophysiological instrumentation to assess how the larynx and associated structures function during voice production and swallowing. These measurements are obtained both before and after voice or swallowing treatments. A major aim of this research is to determine which instrumental measures effectively and validly capture changes in physiological function post-treatment.