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Neurosci Lett. 2008 Dec 19;448(1):139-42. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2008.10.017. Epub 2008 Oct 10.

Facilitation of voluntary swallowing by chemical stimulation of the posterior tongue and pharyngeal region in humans.

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Department of Removable Prosthodontics, School of Dentistry, Iwate Medical University, Morioka 020-8505, Japan.


In this study, we investigated the functional difference between chemical stimulations of the posterior tongue (PT) and pharyngeal region (PR) for facilitation of voluntary swallowing in humans. The PT or PR stimulation consisted of infusion of water (distilled water), 0.3 M NaCl solution or olive oil (non-chemical stimulant) into the PT or the PR through a fine tube at a very slow infusion rate (0.2 ml/min). Water was used as a stimulant of water receptors. A solution of 0.3 M NaCl was used as an inhibitor of the response of water receptors and as a stimulant of salt taste receptors. Excitation of the mucosal receptors would facilitate voluntary swallowing and diminution of sensory inputs from the oral mucosa would induce difficulty in swallowing. Swallowing intervals (SIs) during voluntary swallowing were measured by submental electromyographic activity. Infusion of water into the PR shortened SI (facilitation of swallowing) and infusion of 0.3 M NaCl or olive oil into the same region prolonged it (difficulty in swallowing). On the other hand, infusion of water into the PT prolonged SI and infusion of 0.3 M NaCl into the same region shortened it. The results suggest that water receptors are localized in the PR and that salt taste receptors are almost absent in the PR and present in the PT. With diminution of sensory inputs from the oral mucosa, central inputs would play a dominant role in initiating swallowing voluntarily, and SI would be prolonged. With weak stimulation (infusion of 0.3 M NaCl into the PR or infusion of water into the PT), SI was prolonged and inter-individual variation in SI was pronounced, suggesting that the ability of the central regulation of swallowing to perform repetitive voluntary swallowing varies among subjects. With stimulation of water receptors or salt taste receptors, SI was shortened and inter-individual variation in SI was moderate, suggesting that sensory inputs are important for performing voluntary swallowing smoothly and that the sensory inputs compensate for the difficulty in performing swallowing caused by the central mechanism.

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