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Enhancing Effects Of Flavored Nutritive Stimuli On Cortical Swallowing Network Activity

Arash Babaei, Mark Kern, Stephen Antonik, Rachel Mepani, B. Douglas Ward, Shi-Jiang Li, James Hyde, Reza Shaker

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A better understanding of the central control of the physiology of deglutition is necessary for devising interventions aimed at correcting pathophysiological conditions of swallowing. Positive modulation of the cortical swallowing network can have clinical ramifications in dysphagia due to central nervous system deficits. Our aim was to determine the effect of nutritive sensory input on the cortical swallowing network. In 14 healthy right-handed volunteers, we utilized a paradigm-driven protocol to quantify the number of activated voxels and their signal intensity within the left hemispheric cortical swallowing network by high-resolution functional MRI (fMRI) during five different swallowing conditions. Swallowing conditions included a dry swallow (saliva) and natural water-, lemon-, popcorn-, and chocolate-flavored liquid swallows. Each flavored liquid was presented simultaneously by its image, scent, and taste in random order and tested over three runs. fMRIs were analyzed in a blinded fashion. Average fMRI blood oxygenation level-dependent signal intensity and number of activated voxels during swallowing concurrent with nutritive gustatory, olfactory, and visual stimulations were significantly increased compared with dry/natural water swallows throughout the cortical swallowing network ( P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, respectively). Subregion analysis showed the increased activity for flavored liquids in prefrontal, cingulate gyrus, and sensory/motor cortex, but not in precuneus and insula. Concurrent gustatory, olfactory, and visual nutritive stimulation enhances the activity of the cortical swallowing network. This finding may have clinical implications in management of swallowing disorders due to cortical lesions.