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Effects Of Posture On The Coordination Of Respiration And Swallowing

D. H. McFarland, J. P. Lund, M. Gagner

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1. Although a pause in respiration during swallowing is a feature common to all mammals, inhibition usually occurs during expiration in adult humans and during inspiration in most other species. We tested the hypothesis that this difference is due, at least in part, to the position of the body while feeding. 2. The coordination of respiration and swallowing was studied in adult human subjects in two body positions; upright, which is typically human, and on hands and knees, which is similar to the feeding posture of most other animal species. 3. Our major finding was that the respiratory phase in which swallowing occurred was significantly related to posture. Swallows tended to occur late in the expiratory phase while feeding upright, but during early expiration while on all fours. 4. We speculate that the phase of respiration in which swallowing occurs changes with posture to compensate for the alterations in the mechanical properties of the upper body.