Mechanisms of airway protection dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease


The purpose of this research study is to determine the reasons why people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) develop problems swallowing and coughing.

We have studied both swallowing and cough in PD for several years now, and we have identified that reduced sensation of breathing difficulty or change may be related to problems swallowing and coughing in people with PD. For this study, we will be conducting several tests of swallowing, coughing, and breathing, in order to understand whether our theory is correct.

Ultimately, better understanding of why people with PD have problems protecting their airway will help researchers to develop new ways to help reduce those problems. The research study will be completed in 1 visit that will last between 1.5 and 5 hours.

Study procedures

  • Breathing tests will involve breathing forcefully and quickly several times through a mouthpiece connected to a computerized machine
  • Cough tests will measure 2 types of cough: “reflex” and “voluntary” cough
  • Swallowing test will involve swallowing thin liquid barium and pudding barium


  • Ages 45-85 years

No history of: 

  • Neurologic disease including Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer of the head, neck, or lungs
  • Breathing disorders (e.g., COPD, asthma)
  • Allergy to capsaicin or hot peppers
  • Smoking in the last 5 years


18 to 65
65 and over



Monetary compensation


Can be done from home



Parkinson disease, Parkinson's disease, Parkinson's disease - resources, healthy volunteers

Principal Investigator

Karen Hegland, PhD, CCC-SLP


Public Health & Health Professions

Contact Information

(352) 273-7809

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