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Leslie Mahler

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Biography

I earned a dual doctorate at the University of Colorado – Boulder in Speech Sciences and Neuroscience in 2006 and am committed to an interdisciplinary approach to research and education. I am one of the founding members of the Executive Committee for the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program and serve as chair of the admissions committee. I am also a co-coordinator and faculty member of NEU 503, Introduction to the Neurosciences, a new course offering in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program and I teach NEU 504, Ethics in Neuroscience.

I had a great professor as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado – Boulder, Jay Rosenbek. He was not only bright but an excellent teacher and he shared his passion for evaluation and treatment of people with neurological disorders. I continue to like this area because each person I evaluate and treat presents a unique set of communication problems. I continually learn from them as I help them find a solution to maximize their communication function for a better quality of life.

Research

The focus of my research is to combine my extensive hospital clinical experience treating adults with neurological disorders with my expertise in treatment efficacy research to identify components of clinical efficacy. My research interests and publications describe treating motor speech disorders (dysarthria) to improve the quality of life for people with neurological diagnoses. Specifically, it focuses on how principles of motor learning can be applied to the treatment of individuals with dysarthria secondary to neurological diagnoses such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, head injury, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. A recent publication in the Journal of Developmental Rehabilitation (2012) was the first of its kind to be published in the area of treatment of dysarthria in adults with Down syndrome.

I am the principle investigator for the Gateway Café and Wellness Center for adults with acquired brain injury such as traumatic brain injury and stroke. This is an interdisciplinary group that includes faculty and students from Nutrition and Food Sciences (Ingrid Lofgren) and Kinesiology (Matt Delmonico). I also conduct a group for people with Parkinson disease (PD) called the LOUD Crowd. People with PD can also receive individual treatment that translates principles of neuroplasticity to behavioral modification of communication deficits secondary to PD through administration of LSVT LOUDTM.

Advocacy is an important part of service so I am active at the state level to advocate for people with neurological disorders. Governor Chaffee appointed me to the Governors Permanent Advisory Commission for Traumatic Brain Injuries in 2012 as a cognitive expert and I am currently the Vice Chairperson. I am also a member of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association whose mission is to ease the burden and find a cure. I also serve as a subject matter expert for the National Parkinson Foundation responding to requests for information about speech, swallowing and cognitive changes associated with Parkinson disease on their Forums website.

Improving speech intelligibility in individuals with neurological disorders is challenging. Many of these individuals have multiple communication deficits such as cognitive-linguistic impairment, deficits in multiple speech production systems and may have co-existing medical problems that may limit the long-term success of treatment. My line of research allows me to examine the impact of systematic treatments on speech behaviors and help establish a foundation for determining mechanisms of treatment that contribute to efficacious outcomes. The outcomes from my research have implications for treatment of multiple types of non-progressive dysarthria as a result of neurological disorders and contribute to the body of literature translating principles of motor learning to treatment of dysarthria that have been associated with activity-dependent changes in neuroplasticity. My research also provides clinical services to members of the URI community that would not otherwise be available.

Publications

Spielman, J., Ramig, L.O., Mahler, L., Halpern, A., & Gavin, W.J. (2007) Effects of an extended version of the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment on voice and speech in Parkinson’s disease. American Journal of Speech, Language Pathology, 16, 95-107.

Mahler, L., Ciucci, M., Ramig, L., & Fox, C. (2008). Swallowing problems in Parkinson’s disease. In Trail, M., Protos, E., & Lai, E. (Eds). Neurorehabilitation in Parkinson’s disease: An evidence based treatment model. SLACK Inc. Professional Book Division,
Thorofare, NJ, pp. 279-294.

Mahler, L., Ramig, L.O., Fox, C. (2009). Intensive voice treatment (LSVT® LOUD) for dysarthria secondary to stroke. Journal of Medical Speech-Language Pathology, 17(4), 165-182.

Spielman, J., Mahler, L., Halpern, A., Gilley, P., Klepitskaya, O., and Ramig. L. (2011). Intensive Voice Treatment (LSVT®LOUD) for Parkinson’s disease following Deep Brain Stimulation of the Subthalamic Nucleus. Journal of Communication Disorders, 44, 688-700.

Mahler, L. & Jones, H.N. (2012). Intensive treatment of dysarthria in two adults with Down syndrome. Developmental Neurorehabilitation,15, 44-53.

Mahler, L. & Ramig, L.O. (2012). Intensive voice treatment of dysarthria secondary to stroke. Journal of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 26, 681-694.

Personal website: http://www.uri.edu/hss/cmd/lmahler.html

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