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Study Details

Evaluation of Sensory Tricks in Individuals with Laryngeal Dystonia or Essential Vocal Tremor

(IRB#: IRB_00130977)

Laryngeal dystonia (LD) is a rare neurogenic voice disorder that results in an intermittently strained-strangled or breathy voice quality during speaking. Essential tremor of the voice (ETv) is another neurogenic voice disorder typically perceived as a shaky voice quality but sometimes associated with a similar voice quality to LD, making it challenging for clinicians to distinguish these voice disorders. A correct diagnosis is essential for accurate and effective treatment of these voice disorders. However, clinical voice experts often confuse these disorders and frequently disagree with each other when judging voice quality or observing speech structures. Development of clinical tools that help clinicians make the correct diagnosis of these disorders is a priority. Therefore, we propose studying a characteristic of dystonias, sensory tricks. A sensory trick is a phenomenon diagnostic of dystonias described as a short-term improvement of symptoms due to sensory cues like touching or supporting a body part or being distracted by a sound. This phenomenon is well studied in other kinds of dystonia but has not been systematically evaluated in LD. This pilot study aims to evaluate whether sensory tricks improve voice symptoms in those with LD compared to those with ETv. If successful, outcomes will help identify specific sensory trick(s) that most clearly change LD symptoms and show promise for improving correct diagnosis of those with LD. The sensory tricks studied should be accessible and affordable for use during assessment by clinicians to help distinguish those with LD from ETv. Importantly, findings will inform future studies to improve utilization by clinicians.


  • All genders
  • Over 18 years old
  • Healthy Volunteers
  •   In Person
  • Paid

Who can participate?

 Gender: All genders

  Age: Over 18 years old

  Volunteers: Healthy Volunteers

   Location: In Person

Inclusion Criteria

  • All participants: 1) 18 years of age or older 2) English as the primary communication language 3) Normal or no more than mild-moderate unilateral hearing loss
  • Voice disordered speaker group: 1) A medical diagnosis of laryngeal dystonia, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal tremor, or essential vocal tremor 2) Individuals who have either not yet been treated or have not been treated during the past 3-months prior to participation in the study
  • Normal control speaker group: 1) Patient self-report of no prior or current voice quality or function problems
  • Listeners: 1) No reported history of a significant communication or cognitive disorder that would affect comprehension of task instructions, or ability to participate of their own volition 2) Pass a hearing screening requiring a minimum of hearing pure tone signals at 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz at 25 dB each in one or both ears.

Exclusion Criteria

  • All participants: 1) a neuromotor disorder other than dystonia or ET that affects voice or speech 2) speech abnormalities due to a stroke or traumatic brain injury 3) a psychiatric disorder that may impact participation.

Will I be paid for my time?


For more information contact:

Kaitlyn Dwenger

  1-801-213-7315 37315

IRB#: IRB_00130977

PI: Kaitlyn Dwenger


Approval Date: 2020-11-02 19:27:00

Study Categories: Brain Health Studies

Specialties: Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Speech Pathology

Last Updated: 6/8/23