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Functional Properties Of Neurons In The Primate Tongue Primary Motor Cortex During Swallowing

Ruth E. Martin, Gregory M. Murray, Pentti Kemppainen, Yuji Masuda, Barry J. Sessle

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Martin, Ruth E., Gregory M. Murray, Pentti Kemppainen, Yuji Masuda, and Barry J. Sessle. Functional properties of neurons in the primate tongue primary motor cortex during swallowing. J. Neurophysiol. 78: 1516–1530, 1997. Recent studies conducted in our laboratory have suggested that the tongue primary motor cortex (i.e., tongue-MI) plays a critical role in the control of voluntary tongue movements in the primate. However, the possible involvement of tongue-MI in semiautomatic tongue movements, such as those in swallowing, remains unkown. Therefore the present study was undertakein in attempts to address whether tongue-MI plays a role in the semiautomatic tongue movements produced during swallowing. Extracellular single neuron recordings were obtained from tongue-MI, defined by intracortical microstimulation (ICMS), in two awake monkeys as they performed three types of swallowing (swallowing of a juice reward after successful tongue task performance, nontask-related swallowing of a liquid bolus, and nontask-related swallowing of a solid bolus) as well as a trained tongue-protrusion task. Electromyographic activity was recorded simultaneously from various orofacial and laryngeal muscles. In addition, the afferent input to each tongue-MI neuron and ICMS-evoked motor output characteristics at each neuronal recording site were determined. Neurons were considered to show swallow and/or tongue-protrusion task-related activity if a statistically significant difference in firing rate was seen in association with these behaviors compared with that observed during a control pretrial period. Of a total of 80 neurons recorded along 40 microelectrode penetrations in the ICMS-defined tongue-MI, 69% showed significant alterations of activity in relation to the swallowing of a juice reward, whereas 66% exhibited significant modulations of firing in association with performance of the trained tongue-protrusion task. Moreover, 48% showed significant alterations of firing in relation to both swallowing and the tongue-protrusion task. These findings suggest that the region of cortex involved in swallowing includes MI and that tongue-MI may play a role in the regulation of semiautomatic tongue movement, in addition to trained motor behavior. Swallow-related tongue-MI neurons exhibited a variety of swallow-related activity patterns and were distributed throughout the ICMS-defined tongue-MI at sites where ICMS evoked a variety of types of tongue movements. These findings are consistent with the view that multiple efferent zones for the production of tongue movements are activated in swallowing. Many swallow-related tongue-MI neurons had an orofacial mechanoreceptive field, particularly on the tongue dorsum, supporting the view that afferent inputs may be involved in the regulation of the swallowing synergy.