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About the bulbar function laboratory

The bulbar function laboratory is dedicated to the study of changes in bulbar motor functions and its potential association with cognitive decline in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Our work is motivated by the need to understand how neurological diseases affect the nervous system and what the consequences of these effects are on the individual’s ability to communicate through speech, think and make decisions clearly. Among patients with neurological diseases, ALS patients have the shortest average life expectancy and the highest death rate.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that begins in the bulbar (speech and swallowing) region is the most rapidly progressive and debilitating disease, and makes up 30% of all cases. About 70% of patients will develop bulbar signs as ALS progresses. Bulbar ALS is also important to study because it is the least understood form of ALS.

The long-term objective of our research group is to help early diagnosis and timely management of bulbar ALS, and to prolong life and improve quality of life for patients.

We are engaged in the following projects:

  • Bulbar deterioration in ALS, funded by the National Institutes of Health.
  • Neuroanatomical correlates of cognitive and motor deterioration in ALS, funded by the ALS Society of Canada.
  • Speech movement classification for diagnosing and treating ALS, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Our work is conducted by Dr. Yana Yunusova, director of the bulbar function laboratory at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), in close collaboration with Dr. Lorne Zinman, director of the ALS clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an associate scientist in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at SRI. For a list of our collaborators and research sites, visit the members section.

Research highlights

Lauren Greenwood Since 2010, students from our lab have participated in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Summer Student Research Program and have been awarded grants to pursue independent projects in collaboration with Dr. Yunusova and other researchers. This work is presented each year at SRI’s Best Summer Research Project competition, where some of our students, such as Lauren Greenwood (pictured right), have won or come in second place.

For more information on our summer programs, visit our education and training section or contact Madhura Kulkarni by email at madhura.kulkarni@sunnybrook.ca. To apply to the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Summer Student Research program, click here.