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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Aug 15;115(4):483-90. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01226.2012. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Effect of airway control by glottal structures on postural stability.

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Graduate Program in Advanced Neurology Physical Therapy, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah, USA.


Maintenance of upright posture involves complex neuromotor processes that include control of thoracic and abdominal pressures. Control of airflow by glottal structures is a primary determinant of thoracic pressure and may have a role in control of postural stability. This study aimed to investigate the effect of modulation of airway control on upright postural stability during postural perturbations. Standing balance was gently perturbed in the sagittal plane during 7 breathing/voicing tasks that ranged from completely closed (breath-hold), to partially opened (voicing) or completely open (sigh) glottal conditions in 11 healthy adults. Dependent measures were peak amplitude of displacement of the thorax and center of pressure (CoP). When the glottis was completely open during sigh, thoracic displacement in response to the perturbation was greater than in all other conditions, regardless of direction of perturbation (post hoc, all P < 0.002). The absolute amplitude of CoP displacement was greater with backward perturbation (main effect, Direction P = 0.001) and was greater at both extremes of glottal modulation (glottis closed and completely open) than when the glottis was partially opened during counting out loud (post hoc, all P < 0.04). These results show that airway modulation affects postural control during upright perturbations. The thorax was more stable when the glottis was engaged than when it was required to remain open, whereas control of CoP displacement appeared more optimal during the natural dynamic mid-range airway modulation of voicing. These data suggest that glottal control influences balance, and that glottal control strategies may be an important consideration for patients with breathing and/or balance disorders.


balance reactions; glottis; postural control; thoracic pressure; voicing

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