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Task-dependent Differences In Corticobulbar Excitability Of The Submental Motor Projections: Implications For Neural Control Of Swallowing

S. Doeltgen, M. Ridding, J. Dalrymple-Alford, Maggie-Lee Huckabee
Published 2011 · Medicine, Chemistry

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It has been suggested that the primary motor cortex plays a substantial role in the neural circuitry that controls swallowing. Although its role in the voluntary oral phase of swallowing is undisputed, its precise role in motor control of the more reflexive, pharyngeal phase of swallowing is unclear. The contribution of the primary motor cortex to the pharyngeal phase of swallowing was examined using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to evoke motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in the anterior hyomandibular muscle group during either volitional submental muscle contraction or contraction during the pharyngeal phase of both volitionally, and reflexively, initiated swallowing. For each subject, in all three conditions, TMS was triggered when submental surface EMG (sEMG) reached 75% of the mean maximal submental sEMG amplitude measured during 10 volitional swallows. MEPs recorded during volitional submental muscle contraction were elicited in 22 of the 35 healthy subjects examined (63%). Only 16 of these 22 subjects (45.7%) also displayed MEPs recorded during volitional swallowing, but their MEP amplitudes were larger when triggered by submental muscle contraction than when triggered by volitional swallowing. Additionally, only 7 subjects (of 19 tested) showed MEPs triggered by submental muscle contraction during a reflexively triggered pharyngeal swallow. These differences indicate differing levels of net M1 excitability during execution of the investigated tasks, possibly brought about by task-dependent changes in the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neural activity.
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