Few studies have examined the intensity of muscle activity during swallowing in healthy humans. We examined selected hyoid muscles using fine wire intramuscular electromyography (EMG) during swallowing of four food consistencies. Thirteen healthy adults were studied using videofluorography and EMG of the anterior belly of digastric (ABD), geniohyoid (GH), sternohyoid (SH), and masseter (MA; surface electrodes) while ingesting thin liquid (three trials) and solid food of three consistencies (banana, tofu, and cookie, three trials each). After rectification, integration, and normalization, peak EMG amplitudes for each muscle in each trial were measured. Hyoid displacements were measured in two dimensions. Data were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVA with Bonferroni correction. GH had the highest adjusted amplitude for both solids and liquid. For MA and ABD, amplitude was highest with triturated cookie. For ABD, amplitude was lowest with liquid. There were no significant food consistency effects for GH or SH. Hyoid displacements were greatest for cookie and the lowest for liquid. EMG amplitude varied with initial food consistency. The high peak EMG amplitude of GH is consistent with its essential role in opening the upper esophageal sphincter. High MA amplitude with hard solid foods is likely due to the higher tongue-palate pressure with triturated solids. The higher ABD amplitude with solid food is associated with greater hyoid displacement. These findings support the existence of a central pattern generator that modifies the level of muscle activity during pharyngeal swallowing in response to input from mechanoreceptors in the oral cavity.
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