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Biomechanical Basis For Lingual Muscular Deformation During Swallowing

Vitaly J. Napadow, Qun Chen, Van J. Wedeen, Richard J. Gilbert

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Our goal was to quantify intramural mechanics in the tongue through an assessment of local strain during the physiological phases of swallowing. Subjects were imaged with an ultrafast gradient echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pulse sequence after the application of supersaturated magnetized bands in the x and y directions. Local strain was defined through deformation of discrete triangular elements defined by these bands and was depicted graphically either as color-coded two-dimensional strain maps or as three-dimensional octahedra whose axes correspond to the principal strains for each element. During early accommodation, the anterior tongue showed positive strain (expansive) in the anterior-posterior direction ( x), whereas the middle tongue showed negative strain (contractile) in the superior-inferior direction ( y). During late accommodation, the anterior tongue displayed increased positive x-direction and y-direction strain, whereas the posterior tongue displayed increased negative y-direction strain. These findings were consistent with contraction of the anterior-located intrinsic muscles and the posterior-located genioglossus and hyoglossus muscles. During propulsion, posterior displacement of the tongue was principally associated with positive strain directed in the x and y directions. These findings were consistent with posterior passive stretch in the midline due to contraction of the laterally inserted styloglossus muscle, as well as contraction of the posterior located transversus muscle. We conclude that MRI of lingual deformation during swallowing resolves the synergistic contractions of the intrinsic and extrinsic muscle groups.