Teresa Pitts, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Endowed Chair in the Department of Neurological Surgery

Director of Research for the Division of Communicative Disorders

Laboratory of Airway Protection | twitter @tpittslab

Email Dr. Pitts

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Research Focus:

The upper airway regulates the movement of air, food and liquid along the appropriate path to the lungs or esophagus.  The vagus and other cranial/spinal nerves ensure the integrity of this system by activation of airway protective behaviors.  My laboratory studies the organ to brain/spinal cord to muscle communication pathways using a variety of models and methods.  We strive to provide highly translational information by using clinical tests routinely performed on a variety of patient populations- including videofluoroscopy and laryngeal endoscopy. The overall goal is to produce targeted treatments to allow people to eat and drink with freedom. 

If you are interested in volunteering in the lab or perusing graduate or post-graduate training please email!


Additional Departmental Affiliations:

Department of Otolaryngology- Division of Communication Disorders 

Department of Physiology

Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology 


Current Funding:

NIH- R01- Regulation of swallow and the effects of high cervical spinal cord injury

NIH- R01- Influence of opioids on the brainstem respiration network

NIH- R01- Modeling the role of the NTS in the neurogenesis of airway defensive behaviors


Certifications/ Licensure:  

2015- State of Kentucky- Speech-Language Pathology 

2007- Certified Clinically Competent- American Speech and Hearing Association (CCC-SLP)


Honors & Awards: 

2011- Outstanding Young Alumnus to the Department of Speech-Language and Hearing Science in the College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida

2013- Outstanding Alumni Award for the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Central Florida 

2017- New Investigator Award- Respiratory Section- American Physiological Society

2020- Giles F. Filley Memorial Award for Excellence in Respiratory Physiology and Medicine



CMDS 600 Research Methods- Fall

NCSI 600 Translational Neurosciences- Select Lecture/s

CMDS 699 Thesis/Research Project


University Committees:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee- Department of Neurological Surgery & KSCIRC

MD/PHD Advisory Committee- UofL Graduate School


Current Lab Members:

Kimberly Iceman, PhD- Assistant Professor & Staff Scientist

Michael Frazure, MS- Graduate Student, Department of Physiology

Clinton Greene, DVM - Veterinary Clinical Advisor 

Mike Brennan- SLP masters student

Nathan Fielder- Medical summer scholar 

In Morimoto, MS- International Trainee from Japan

Marianna Rodriguez- Undergraduate