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Pharyngeal Branch Of The Glossopharyngeal Nerve Plays A Major Role In Reflex Swallowing From The Pharynx

Jun-Ichi Kitagawa, Tomio Shingai, Yoshihiro Takahashi, Yoshiaki Yamada

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Mechanical stimulation of the pharyngeal areas readily elicits reflex swallowing. However, it is much more difficult for electrical stimulation of the glossopharyngeal nerve (GPN) to evoke reflex swallowing than it is for stimulation of the superior laryngeal nerve (SLN) to do so. These paradoxical findings remain unexplained; hence, the main purpose of this study was to explain this contradiction by using a urethane-anesthetized rat. Mechanical stimulation easily elicited reflex swallowing from the pharynx. The posterior pillars, posterior pharyngeal wall, and the soft palate of the rat were extremely reflexogenic areas for swallowing. Sectioning the pharyngeal branch of the GPN (GPN-ph), however, eliminated the swallowing reflex from these areas. In contrast, sectioning the lingual branch of the GPN had no effect on the elicitation of swallowing. Electrical stimulation of the GPN-ph and SLN elicited sequentially occurring swallows. The relationship between stimulus frequency and the latency of swallowing for the GPN-ph was approximately the same as that for the SLN. These results indicate that the GPN-ph plays a major role in the initiation of reflex swallowing from the pharynx in rats.