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. SD is unresponsive to speech therapy. currently, the primary treatment is Botulinum toxin injection that provides temporary symptom relief.

Our preliminary work 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).

A clinical trial study to assess the effects of VTS

In a new research study funded by the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA), we 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. 

Team members

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. 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.

Arash Mahnan and  Jiapeng Xu from HSCL complement the team.


Arash Mahnan          Jiapeng Xu                Jürgen Konczak

Contact information

Dr. Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D., Professor in the School of Kinesiology is the principal investigator of the study. If you would like further information, please contact the study coordinator Arash Mahnan, M.S., (phone: 612-625-3313; email: amahnan@umn.edu).

If you want to stay updated on the latest progress, please sign up through this link: https://z.umn.edu/SDSignUp