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Modulation Of Human Cortical Swallowing Motor Pathways After Pleasant And Aversive Taste Stimuli

Satish Mistry, John C. Rothwell, David G. Thompson, Shaheen Hamdy

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Human swallowing involves the integration of sensorimotor information with complexities such as taste; however, the interaction between the taste of food and its effects on swallowing control remains unknown. We assessed the effects of pleasant (sweet) and aversive (bitter) tastes on human cortical swallowing motor pathway excitability. Healthy adult male volunteers underwent a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) mapping study ( n = 9, mean age: 34 yr) to assess corticobulbar excitability before and up to 60 min after 10-min liquid infusions either 1) as swallowing tasks or 2) delivered directly into the stomach. Infusions were composed of sterile water (neutral), 10% glucose (sweet), and 0.5 mM quinine hydrochloride (bitter). The order of delivery was randomized, and each infusion was given on separate days. Pharyngeal motor-evoked potentials (PMEPs) were recorded from an intraluminal catheter as a measure of corticobulbar excitability and compared using repeated-measures and one-way ANOVA. After the swallowing task (water, glucose, or quinine), repeated-measures ANOVA revealed a significant time interaction across tastants ( P ≤ 0.01). One-way ANOVA for each taste showed changes in PMEP amplitudes for both quinine ( P ≤ 0.001) and glucose ( P ≤ 0.009) solutions but not for water ( P = 0.1). Subsequent t-tests showed that glucose and quinine reduced PMEPs by 47% (SD 34) and 37% (SD 54), respectively, at 30 min ( P ≤ 0.03). No changes were observed after the infusion of any solution directly into the stomach ( P = 0.51). In conclusion, cortical swallowing pathways are similarly modulated by both sweet and bitter tasting stimuli. Changes likely reflect a close interaction between taste and swallowing activity mediated in the central nervous system.