Skip to main content

Search NYU Steinhardt


Sonja Molfenter

Associate Professor (On Leave Through January 2021)

Communicative Sciences and Disorders


Dr. Sonja Molfenter is a clinically-trained Speech Language Pathologist whose research specializes in understanding the physiological features of both normal swallowing and disordered swallowing (known as dysphagia). Swallowing function is commonly disrupted after many conditions including stroke, brain injury, head and neck cancer and spinal cord injury.

Her over-arching research goal is to produce clinically-relevant research to inform front-line clinical practice. Her research focuses on naturally-occurring muscle loss in the pharynx as the result of aging. Dr. Molfenter's work aims to understand the impact of these age-related changes on swallowing function and explore methods to prevent or reverse these changes. 

Selected Publications

  • Brates, D., Steele, C., & Molfenter, S.M. (2020). Measuring hyoid excursion across the lifespan: Anatomical scaling to control for variation. Published online ahead of print in Journal of Speech Language Hearing Research.
  • Herzberg, E., Brates, D., & Molfenter, S.M. (2019). Physiological compensation for advanced bolus location at swallow onset in healthy seniors. Journal of Speech Language Hearing Research. 62(12):4351-4355.
  • Curtis, J.A., Molfenter, S.M. and Troche, M.S. (2019). Pharyngeal volumetric changes in Parkinson's Disease and its influence on swallowing safety, efficiency, and kinematics. Published online ahead of print in Dysphagia. doi:10.1007/s00455-019-10052-7
  • Lenell, C., Brates, D., Pearson, W. & Molfenter, S. (2019). Adaptations in healthy swallowing of various bolus conditions using computational analysis of swallowing mechanics (CASM). Published online ahead of print in Dysphagia. doi: 10.1007/s00455-019-10026-9
  • Curtis, J.A., Molfenter, S.M. and Troche, M.S. (2019). Predictors of residue, penetration, and aspiration in Parkinson’s Disease. Published online ahead of print in Dysphagia. doi: 10.1007/s00455-019-10014-z
  • Molfenter, S. M., Lenell, C. & Lazarus, C.L. (2019). Volumetric changes to the pharynx in healthy aging: Implications for pharyngeal swallowing mechanics and function. Dysphagia. 34(1):129-137.
  • Brates, D., Molfenter, S.M., Thibeault, S. (2019). Assessing hyolaryngeal excursion: Comparing quantitative methods to palpation at the bedside and visualization during videofluoroscopy. Dysphagia, 34(3), 298-307.
  • Balou, M., Herzberg, E.G., Kamelhar, D. & Molfenter, S.M. (2019). An intensive swallowing exercise protocol for improving swallowing physiology in older adults with radiographically-confirmed dysphagia. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 14:283-288.
  • Turcotte, M., Herzberg, E.G., Balou, M., & Molfenter, S.M. (2018). Analysis of pharyngeal edema post-chemoradiation for head and neck cancer: Impact on swallow function. Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology. 3: 377-383


Dysphagia in Children & Adults

Description of swallowing disorders in adults and children associated with various structural, neurological, and behavioral disorders. Assessment and remediating approaches will be addressed.
Course #
CSCD-GE 2060
Fall, Spring, Summer

Instrumental Assessment and Treatment of Dysphagia

This problem-based learning course introduces graduate students to instrumental tools used in the evaluation & treatment of swallowing disorders (other than gold-standard videofluoroscopic & endoscopic methods). Students will actively engage in problem-based learning in a group setting & present findings to their peers.This course exposes students to a variety of current instrumental tools for the assessment/treatment of swallowing disorders & promotes the development of life-long learning skills.
Course #
CSCD-GE 2068

Research Colloquium in Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Students participate in discussion of research topics, AND engage in research out of class with a faculty member. During this time, students are also exposed to examples of scholarly research presented by guest speakers, who are eminent researchers on speech language pathology and related areas. This course is required for 3 semesters for doctoral students but may also be taken by master’s level students for a single semester. Doctoral students doing research with faculty will present results at the colloquium.
Course #
CSCD-GE 2420
Fall, Spring