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OPAL Research for Studying Dysphagia

For stroke-induced dysphagia, OPAL modeling will help us better understand how the neural-motor control of swallowing is affected by stroke, and may suggest therapies involving the stimulation of alternate neural pathways. Cancer-related surgical deficits arise when the removal of tissue for cancer treatment restricts the ability of patients to chew and swallow; here, simulation could permit better surgical planning and facilitate the design of prostheses.

Our activities include studying:

Dysphagia caused by stroke

Our integrated models of mastication and swallowing are used to study the functional consequences of stroke, in particular, aspects dealing with oropharyngeal and laryngeal dysfunction (including dysphagia). Initially, we use our reference dynamic model to predict generally-known consequences of lost motor control in specific segments of the neuraxis, i.e. regions responsible for jaw, tongue, soft palate, tongue pharyngeal and laryngeal function. We intend to model subject-specific conditions based on patient data which includes specific central nervous system lesions and associated biomechanical deficits.

Cancer-related surgical deficits

Subject-specific masticatory models are used to study the biomechanical deficits caused by post-cancer orofacial surgery, and jaw and tongue reconstruction. Since these deficits often produce atypical jaw and tongue movements and masticatory difficulties, we construct individual models based on musculoskeletal imaging data and electromyographic recordings from an existing patient pool. Our goals here are to determine the nature of the altered biomechanics, and to predict management strategies (e.g. grafting procedures and oral prosthesis designs) for specific cases.

We are actively looking for graduate students and undergraduates who would like to participate in the activities below. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved.