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Changes In The Coordination Between Respiration And Swallowing From Suckling Through Weaning

Laura E. Bond, Christopher J. Mayerl, Bethany M. Stricklen, Rebecca Z. German, Francois D. H. Gould

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All mammals undergo weaning from milk to solid food. This process requires substantial changes to mammalian oropharyngeal function. The coordination of swallowing and respiration is a crucial component of maintaining airway function throughout feeding and matures over infant development. However, how this coordination is affected by weaning is unknown. In this study, we ask how changes in posture, neural maturation and food properties associated with the weaning affect coordination of respiration and swallowing in a validated infant pig model. We recorded seven piglets feeding before and during the weaning age with liquid milk in a bottle and in a bowl, and solid feed in a bowl. Using videofluoroscopy synchronized with respiration, we found (i) the delay in the onset of inspiration after swallowing does not change with head position, (ii) the delay is different between solid food and bowl drinking at the same age and (iii) the delay increases over time when bottle feeding, suggesting a maturational effect. Significant changes in aerodigestive coordination occur prior to and post-weaning, resulting in distinctive patterns for liquid and solid food. The interplay of maturational timelines of oropharyngeal function at weaning may serve as a locus for behavioural and life-history plasticity.