Modulation of laryngeal responses to superior laryngeal nerve stimulation by volitional swallowing in awake humans

Julie M. Barkmeier, Steve Bielamowicz, Naoya Takeda, Christy L. Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Laryngeal sensorimotor closure reflexes are important for the protection of the airway and prevent the entry of foreign substances into the trachea and lungs. The purpose of this study was to determine how such reflexes might be modulated during volitional swallowing in awake humans, when persons are at risk of entry of food or liquids into the airway. The frequency and the amplitude of laryngeal adductor responses evoked by electrical stimulation of the internal branch of the superior laryngeal nerve (ISLN) were studied during different phases of volitional swallowing. Subjects swallowed water on command while electrical stimuli were presented to the ISLN at various intervals from 500 ms to 5 s following the command. Laryngeal adductor responses to unilateral ISLN stimulation were recorded bilaterally in the thyroarytenoid muscles using hooked wire electrodes. Early ipsilateral R1 responses occurred at 17 ms, and later bilateral R2 began around 65 ms. The muscle responses to stimuli occurring during expiration without swallowing were quantified as control trials. Responses to stimulation presented before swallowing, during the swallow, within 3 s after swallowing, and between 3 and 5 s after a swallow were measured. The frequency and amplitude of three responses (ipsilateral R1 and bilateral R2) relative to the control responses were compared across the different phases relative to the occurrence of swallowing. Results demonstrated that a reduction occurred in both the frequency and amplitude of the later bilateral R2 laryngeal responses to electrical stimulation for up to 3 s after swallowing (P = 0.005). The amplitude and frequency of ipsilateral R1 laryngeal responses, however, did not show a significant main effect following the swallow (P = 0.28), although there was a significant time by measure interaction (P = 0.006) related to reduced R1 response amplitude up to 3 s after swallowing (P = 0.021). Therefore, the more rapid and shorter unilateral R1 responses continued to provide some, albeit reduced, laryngeal protective functions after swallowing, whereas the later bilateral R2 responses were suppressed both in occurrence and amplitude for up to 3 s after swallowing. The results suggest that R2 laryngeal adductor responses are suppressed following swallowing when residues may remain in the laryngeal vestibule putting persons at increased risk for the entry of foreign substances into the airway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1264-1272
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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