News Archive

Living Beyond SD: Dot Sowerby

Living Beyond SD: Dot Sowerby

NSDA Past President Dot Sowerby has been a wonderful example of living beyond spasmodic dysphonia. In her book, "Speechless" she chronicles her journey with SD, but these days you can find her lacing up her running shoes and winning races. Dot shares, "My journey in running spans from when I was in my late 40’s and jogged around one block, to this summer at age 80, competing in the National Senior Games in Cleveland OH, where I won a silver medal in the 5K (3.1 miles) and a bronze in the 800 meter race (1/2 mile) for women, ages 80 to 84.     More...

My early days of running were difficult but I persisted and slowly improved.  I receive support from a local running group. There were not many females running in the 1970s, as most women my age did not grow up participating in track. I eventually ran a half marathon (13 miles).

In 2010, I started competing in the local Senior Games. I had to qualify in my city, then went to state games and earned the right to participate in National Senior games. Over time, I have won about 60 metals locally and nationally within my age group. When I participate in races, I don’t wear fancy sports outfits and I run in shoes that I buy at Wal-Mart!

Dot shares about her recent Bronze win,"The 800-meter dash was the most exciting for me. Two ladies were very fast and jumped out ahead. One lady was about 3 yards behind me and stayed there until we turned the last corner and had about 40 yards to go. I realized only one of us that could get third place. Suddenly, I heard her footsteps getting closer and I stepped up my run a little. I usually try to do a sprint at the end of my races but it was too early for me. However as she edged in front of me, the crowd yelled and screamed and that helped me take off and we were even but I managed to pull ahead and beat her by about 2 yards. It was exhilarating and so many people told me it was the best race of the day to watch, like a horse race, neck and neck to the finish! Over 10,000 people participated in all the games. It was such an uplifting experience."

Running helps me physically, mentally, and spirituality. When you run, you get endorphins, in your body, which makes you feel good. I also listen to music when I walk or run and feel like I get a double sho of endorphins. 

Around the time I started running, I began having problems with my voice. At first I felt scared and panicky that I would never have a normal voice again. I remembered the running support group that fostered me, so I looked for voice support groups. It linked me up with the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association.

Life does not always give awards for overcoming challenges. My voice achievements are just as important as my winning metals for running. You can progress beyond obstacles in your life and try new activities. I hope others will be encouraged to keep moving forward!We applaud Dot for all of her efforts and as she always says, "You are never too old!"

New Grant Co-Funded by the NSDA

The NSDA is pleased to announce that it is jointly funding a grant on genetics and spasmodic dysphonia with the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation. The grant, "Identification of a Spasmodic Dysphonia Gene using Exome Sequencing," is being led by Tatiana Fuchs, Ph.D., with Laurie Ozelius, Ph.D., serving as a significant contributor. Both researchers are located at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. More...

This grant is focused on finding a possible genetic cause of spasmodic dysphonia. Dr. Fuchs is using an innovative, powerful technique to screen all genes in a family affected by SD to identify a common gene mutation. To determine whether mutations in this gene contribute to additional SD and other focal/segmental primary dystonia cases, Dr. Fuchs will also screen for this gene in an additional group of volunteers with focal dystonia. This research may reveal a new causative gene for SD and possibly other forms of primary dystonia, contributing to our understanding of the disease mechanism and providing a basis for development of new therapies.


Increase in NIH Funding of SD Grants

Currently, there are 13 grants for SD research funded through the National Institutes of Health. This is a huge increase over the last five years when there have been only a handful of grants specifically on SD. This new research is focused on a wide spectrum of areas including neuro-imaging, epidemiology and pathophysiology. Scientific Director Dr. Christy Ludlow lauded the efforts of the NSDA and its advocates in raising the profile of SD in the research community. Dr Ludlow strongly encouraged all to keep up the work of advocacy and support for SD as it is making a difference. More...

Current Research Grants on Spasmodic Dysphonia funded through the National Institutes of Health


National Institute of Deafness and Communications Disorders Grants


Measuring Communicative Participation in Adults with Communication Disorders

Carolyn Baylor, Ph.D., University of Washington


Neuromuscular Control of the Larynx

Dinesh Khatri Chhetri, M.D., University of California Los Angeles


Neural Modeling and Imaging of Speech

Frank Guenther, Ph.D., Boston University


Neuroimaging of Speech Motor Control

John Francis Houde, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco


Pathophysiology of Spasmodic Dysphonia: a TMS Study

Teresa Jacobson Kimberley, PT, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Phonetic Influences on Auditory Feedback Control

Caroline Niziolek, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco


Role of Neurotransmission and Functional CNS Networks in Spasmodic Dysphonia

Kristina Simonyan, M.D., Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine


Imaging Genetics of Spasmodic Dysphonia

Kristina Simonyan, M.D., Ph.D. Mount Sinai School of Medicine


Kinaesthetic Loss as a Marker for Spasmodic Dysphonia

Peter Watson, Ph.D. University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Pathophysiology of Basal Ganglia Disorders

Mark Hallett, M.D., National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Dystonia Coalition

Hyder A. Jinnah, M.D., Ph.D., Emory University


Diagnostic Error in Dystonia

Caroline M. Tanner, M.D., Ph.D., Parkinson's Institute


Epidemiology of Dystonia in a Multi-Ethnic Population

Caroline M. Tanner, M.D., Ph.D.  Parkinson's Institute


As of June 1, 2012

Help Advance Spasmodic Dysphonia Research Through Brain Donation

The National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, working with other organizations of the Dystonia Brain Collective, is proud to partner with the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center to help solve the mystery of spasmodic dysphonia and other dystonias through brain donation. The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center is responsible for collecting, preserving, and distributing human tissue to qualified scientific investigators who are conducting important spasmodic dysphonia research. More...

Finding the causes of a complex neurological disorder such as spasmodic dysphonia is an enormous task and one that a number of researchers and clinicians have dedicated their lives to pursuing. To understand the etiology of spasmodic dysphonia, we must rely, to a large extent, on the analysis of donated brains. Through the study of these brains, important clues about spasmodic dysphonia can be discovered. When scientists examine samples from donated brains and compare different age groups, genders and so forth, they can begin to gain a better understanding and knowledge of this complicated disorder, which will lead to development of novel therapeutics and treatments. This, in turn, will offer hope for SD-affected individuals and their families.

How will the tissue be used?
Our Scientific Advisory Board Chairperson, Dr. Christy Ludlow, represents the NSDA on the research committee which reviews applications from researchers requesting brain tissue. Since the majority of the scientific research studies can be carried out on a very small amount of tissue, each donated brain provides tissue that can be used by many different researchers at institutions throughout the U.S. and worldwide. When you enroll as a brain donor, you are giving a very precious gift which will benefit future generations.

How Do I Get Involved?
To enroll in the Dystonia Brain Donation Collective, click here to open up the registration form. Please print it out and either mail or fax it back to the NSDA.

We know that these decisions are not easily made and talking to your family is critical. But we also are confident that further advances can be made in understanding spasmodic dysphonia through this type of research. So we thank you for your consideration of this most generous gift.

Register for the Central Regional Symposium

Join us on September 17, 2011 for the Central Regional Symposium. Medical Speakers include Drs. Robert Bastian, Joel Blumin, and Seth Daily. Click here for the full program. More...

New Poetry Book to Raise Funds for the NSDA

New Poetry Book to Raise Funds for the NSDA

The National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) is pleased to share with you a new opportunity to support the organization. Stephanie Mendel is graciously donating 100% of the proceeds from her newly published poetry book, BARE BRANCHES to the organization. Read why Stephanie is so passionate about poetry and supporting the NSDA. Thank you, Stephanie, for your generosity! More...

Dear Potential Reader,

Twenty-two years ago I was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia (SD) and ever since have had a soft voice, with breaks and a tremor, which make it difficult to verbally communicate with people.

Those of us with SD have SD; we aren't SD. We find outlets for our skills and creativity that extend in directions where verbal interaction isn't a top priority, but we need to have better voices to lead normal lives. I'm a nationally published poet, my first book, MARCH, BEFORE SPRING, is now in its third printing.

Wanting to combine my writing with finding a cure for spasmodic dysphonia, I am donating all profits from my second book, BARE BRANCHES, to the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association to find better treatments and a cure for this neurological voice disorder. BARE BRANCHES contains two poems about living with spasmodic dysphonia.

If you decide to purchase a book, you have my appreciation for helping the NSDA move forward its effort to fund SD specific research, provide support for SD patients and their families and increase awareness of spasmodic dysphonia. Order your copy today!

With warm thanks,
Stephie Mendel
NSDA Board Member
San Francisco / North Bay SD Support Group Leader

Welcome to the NSDA Website!

Thank you for visiting the new and updated NSDA website! We hope that you like the changes and ask you to take a survey and let us know what you think! More...

This site has a fresh new design, is more functional, and features expanded sections on Spasmodic Dysphonia, Treatment, and Support, along with new sections on Research, Advocacy, and Membership. We also now have a video gallery and are working on the photo gallery. Listen to more voice samples and meet some of our members on the home page.

World Voice Day 2018 - Cherish Your Voice!

World Voice Day is celebrated every April 16th with the main goal of increasing public awareness throughout the world of the importance of the voice and impact of voice problems. The year’s World Voice Day theme is “Make the Choice to Cherish Your Voice.” On April 1, the NSDA will begin a video campaign on social media channels. Each day we will post a video highlighting an aspect of living with spasmodic dysphonia and related voice conditions. We encourage you to share the videos or ‘like’ them depending on the social media platform you are on. Find the videos here: More...

As anyone with spasmodic dysphonia and related voice conditions can attest, the loss of normalcy in the voice has major implications to all facets of your life. Although the voice is used as an everyday basis of speech, most people realize its importance only when a voice problem arises. By creating awareness, vocal issues can get more acknowledgements, more funding, and more research to promote future treatments or even a cure.

We are also including a sign that offers the message “cherish your voice.”  We hope you will join us by:

1.  Printing the sign by downloading here

2.  Take a picture with the sign

3.  Post it on your own social media on April 16 to show your support of World Voice Day

4.  Link to our Facebook page so we can see them too.

Encourage your friends and family to participate too and support you! You can even do a short video and share why you cherish your voice. This is a celebration of the power of all voices regardless of how they sound!

If you are not on social media, you can still participate! Snap your photo with the sign and email it to us at with your permission to share the photo. We will post them.

We hope you will "make the choice to cherish you voice" and participate in this campaign! We appreciate you continuing to share your stories and participating in advocacy with us. Awareness is a critical measurement that influences early diagnosis, best treatment practices, funding for research and hopefully, cures.  World Voice Day on April 16 helps support these goals!

Use Your Voice to Help Raise Awareness about Spasmodic Dysphonia

September is Dystonia Awareness Month.  We ask you to join us in raising awareness about spasmodic dysphonia. Click "more" for ideas for how you can help with outreach.


Ways to Raise Awareness about Spasmodic Dysphonia

Tell your friends and family about spasmodic dysphonia. People may be unsure if they should ask about your voice, so by sharing your story you can help them better understand. 
View and share videos from the NSDA YouTube channel. There are videos from past NSDA Symposiums from some of the leading experts on SD. 
Follow and share social media post from the NSDA. Be sure to add your story to make it more personal. We are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Use NSDA Awareness Tools, including cards, a button, and wristband, to help share information about SD. 
Reach out to your local healthcare professionals and provide materials from the NSDA so more people can find support. Email us to request materials that you can distribute. 

Educate those in your community by approaching local media outlets about your SD story. 

Connect locally through NSDA Support Groups or Area Contact Persons. September meetings are listed below, and there are more in October! None in your area? Contact us to start one or to become an Area Contact.

Let us know how you are educating others about spasmodic dysphonia. Together, we will share our voices to speak out for spasmodic dysphonia! 


A Very Special Birthday Gift

We are so thankful to share in the birthday celebration of NSDA Board Member,Stephie Mendel. Organized by her sons, David and Doug, donations in honor of her birthday were made to the NSDA, and she received the "gift" at a family party. She was overwhelmed by the number of people who contributed. Over  $37,000 for NSDA research was donated from over 25 families plus Sophie (her adorable dog). More...

To say she was touched is an understatement. "There is not a gift I would have rather received. I was just stunned. I appreciate my family so much and am so proud of my sons," shared Stephie. We appreciate the generous support! 

Stephie at her birthday celebration. 
Top row: Derron Mendel, Holly Mendel, 
Jeanne Samuelson, and Rona Hokanson 
Bottom row: Doug Mendel, Stephie Mendel, 
and David Mendel