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Swallowing Science

Swallowing is a process that is easily ignored by healthy people because it is done automatically without much thought. However, when an accident or disease interferes with this automatic process, the results can be devastating. People with degenerative diseases, head and neck cancer, and stroke survivors are prone to swallowing disorders. Studying the causes and treatments of swallowing disorders is the research focus of the Swallowing Science Team.

People swallow about 600 times per day but most of us never think about it, unless something goes wrong. Swallowing is a complex process involving over 25 pairs of muscles and co-ordination with our respiratory system.

Dysphagia (dis FAY juh) is the term used to describe swallowing impairment. A swallowing problem can occur anywhere from the mouth to the stomach. There are multiple causes of swallowing impairment including stroke, brain injury, progressive illness, and structural changes. Dysphagia is estimated to affect 8% of the world’s population, making it more common than diabetes.

The negative health consequences of dysphagia include poor nutrition, dehydration, weight loss, and aspiration (food or drink going into the lungs), which can cause pneumonia.

The Swallowing Science Team consists of a multidisciplinary group of individuals including speech-language pathologists, PhD students and clinical engineers who are interested in exploring the mechanisms underlying swallowing impairment and finding ways to improve clinical practice and treatment outcomes.

There are several main foci of research for our team:

  • Tongue Function
  • Viscosity and Texture Modification
  • Best Practice
  • Swallowing Accelerometry
  • Treatment Studies
  • Nutrition and Oral Hygiene

Team Leader: Dr. Catriona Steele

For more information, visit the website for the Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Lab