Teresa Pitts, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Laboratory of Airway Protection

Endowed Chair 1 in the Department of Neurological Surgery

Director of Research for the Division of Communicative Disorders

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Research Focus:

Teresa Pitts is a speech pathologist who moved from bedside to bench following completion of her Ph.D. Her research brought to light the co-existence of disordered swallow and cough in Parkinson’s disease which puts these patients at risk for significant respiratory complications.  As a post-doctoral fellow Dr Pitts has revealed the overlapping central control of cough and swallow in an animal for the eventual prediction of aspiration pneumonia in at-risk populations, and was awarded NIH’s prestigious Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) in 2013.  In 2015 she began as an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville in the Department of Neurological Surgery and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. In  In 2016 she became the Director of Research for the Speech Language Pathology clinical master's program, and developed a research thesis program that mentors students and faculty in research.  In 2021 she was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded the Endowed Chair 1 in the Department of Neurological Surgery. 

Key Publications:

Pitts T, Bolser D, Rosenbek J, Troche M, Sapienza C. (2008) Voluntary Cough Production and Swallow Dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. Dysphagia 23(3): 297-301. PMID: 18483823

Pitts T, Bolser D, Rosenbek J, Troche M, Okun, M, Sapienza C.  (2009) Impact of Expiratory Muscle Strength Training on Voluntary Cough and Swallow Function in Parkinson’s disease. Chest 135(5): 1301-1308. PMID: 19029430

Pitts T, Troche M, Carnaby-Mann G, Rosenbek J, Okun M, Sapienza C. (2010) Using voluntary cough to detect penetration and aspiration during oropharyngeal swallowing in Parkinson’s disease. Chest 138(6): 1426-1431. PMID: 20705802

Pitts T, Morris KF, Segers LS, Poliacek I, Rose MJ, Lindsey BG, Davenport PW, Howland DR, Bolser DC. (2016) Feed-forward and reciprocal inhibition for gain and phase timing control in a computational model of repetitive cough.  Journal of Applied Physiology 121(1): 268-78. PMID: 27283917

Pitts T, Poliacek I, Rose MJ, Reed M, Condrey JA, Tsai HW, Zhou G, Davenport PW, Bolser DC. (2018) Neurons in the dorsomedial medulla contribute to swallow pattern generation: Evidence of the schluckatmung. PLoS one13(7): e0199903. PMID: 30024913

King SN, Shen TY, Musselwhite MN, Huff A, Reed M, Poliacek I, Howland DR, Dixon D, Morris KF, Bolser DC, Iceman KE, Pitts T. (2020) Swallow motor pattern is modulated by fixed or stochastic alterations in afferent feedback. Frontiers Human Neuroscience Special edition Orofacial functions: from Neural Mechanisms to Rehabilitation 14:112. PMID: 32327986

Huff A, Reed MD, Iceman K, Howland DR, Pitts T. (2020) Sex specific vagal and spinal modulation of breathing with chest compression.  PloS one 15(6) e0234193. PMID: 32555612  

Huff A, Reed MD, Iceman K, Howland DR, Pitts T. (2020) Sex-specific vagal and spinal modulation of swallow and its coordination with breathing PloS one 15(6): e0234194. PMID: 32525920