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Changes In Respiratory Activity Induced By Mastication In Humans

G. A. Fontana, T. Pantaleo, F. Bongianni, F. Cresci, L. Viroli, G. Sarago

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We studied the influence of mastication on respiratory activity in nine healthy volunteers who were requested to masticate a 5-g chewing gum bolus at a spontaneous rate (SR) for 5 min and “at the maximum possible rate” (MPR) for 1 min. Significant increases in respiratory frequency were induced by SR mastication due to a decrease in both the inspiratory and expiratory time. Tidal volume displayed slight nonsignificant decreases, but minute ventilation and mean inspiratory flow significantly increased. The duty cycle (TI/TT) did not change significantly. Total airway resistance significantly increased. Both peak and rate of rise of the integrated electromyographic activity of inspiratory muscles presented marked increases, accompanied by the appearance of a low level of tonic muscular activity. Similar but more intense effects on respiratory activity were induced by MPR mastication; in addition, a significant decrease in tidal volume and a significant increase in TI/TT were observed. Rhythmic handgrip exercise performed at metabolic rates comparable to those attained during SR or MPR mastication induced similar changes in the drive and time components of the breathing pattern, although accompanied respectively by nonsignificant or significant increases in tidal volume. Furthermore, the frequency of SR mastication significantly entrained the respiratory rhythm. The results suggest that mastication-induced hyperpnea does not merely represent a ventilatory response to exercise but also reflects complex interactions between respiratory and nonrespiratory functions of the upper airway and chest wall muscles.