Pathophysiology of Spasmodic Dysphonia: A Combined TMS and fMRI Study | Teresa Kimberley, PhD, | Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions

Dr. Teresa Kimberley’s research team is dedicated to furthering the understanding of the mechanism of and seeking effective treatments for spasmodic dysphonia (SD). By using a non-invasive brain probing technique, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), Dr. Kimberley and colleagues investigated the excitability features of the brain area that controls the vocal folds in people with SD. With the support of NSDA, Dr. Kimberley was able to further this study by including another major brain function evaluation technique, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allowed a more comprehensive evaluation of the brain function with complementary techniques. One paper has been published on this and another manuscript has just been submitted.

Importantly, the seed funding received from NSDA along with the tremendous support from NSDA members to participate in the study, helped the team receive an NIH R01 award. In this study, Dr. Kimberley is including people with focal hand dystonia as well as SD, to allow for comparisons that will hopefully help to determine why some people develop dystonia in one part of their body vs another. Determining these commonalities and differences may help to develop interventions such as neuromodulation treatments that can be done to help treat the disorders.

Currently, Dr. Kimberley is collaborating with the University of Minnesota on this multi-modal assessment of pathophysiology of dystonia. Thirteen participants have already been recruited for this cutting-edge brain network assessment study and about 50 more still need to be recruited. In addition to studying the mechanism of spasmodic dysphonia, the pilot work led to another project where Dr. Kimberley is also investigating effective interventions to treat spasmodic dysphonia. In that recent study, 18 participants received down-regulative brain excitability neuromodulation intervention. The results are being analyzed and will be published soon. A better understanding of the mechanism of this neurological disorder may eventually lead to effective treatments which is the ultimate goal of this work. Even small contributions to research can lead to exponential gains. For more information about Dr. Kimberley’s work, please see: