Healthy Volunteers Immediately Adapt to Submental Stimulation During Swallowing

Mohammed F. Safi, Sandra Martin, Lincoln Gray, Christy L. Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Transcutaneous stimulation above and below the hyoid is used to assist patients with swallowing disorders (dysphagia) but has shown different effects. Previously, infrahyoid transcutaneous stimulation lowered the hyoid and larynx resisting swallowing movement while suprahyoid stimulation had no effects on hyolaryngeal movement either at rest or during swallowing. More recently, large submental electrodes, covering the submental region, are used for swallowing therapy in combination with resistance therapy. To gain insight into the effects of these electrodes on movement during swallowing, we studied healthy volunteers using videofluoroscopy (VF). We hypothesized that submental electrical stimulation might elevate the hyoid but not the larynx increasing vestibular opening potentially reducing swallowing safety. Materials and Methods: While undergoing VF, seven healthy volunteers (mean age 51, 5 males) swallowed 5 mL of liquid barium on at least ten trials randomly ordered across three conditions: stimulation at rest, swallowing without stimulation, and swallowing with stimulation. Results: During stimulation at rest, significant (one tailed p < 0.05) anterior movement occurred in the hyoid and larynx, no superior hyoid and laryngeal movement and an increase in the distance between the hyoid and larynx. When comparing swallowing with and without submental stimulation, during stimulation volunteers significantly reduced anterior hyoid motion (p = 0.028) and increased hyoid elevation (p = 0.043) without changing anterior or superior laryngeal movement or the distance between the hyoid and larynx. Conclusions: The healthy volunteers immediately corrected for the effects of submental stimulation by reducing hyoid anterior motion and increasing superior hyoid motion without changing laryngeal motion to prevent increased vestibule opening with stimulation. This suggests that healthy volunteers had an internal schema for swallowing movement patterning with feedforward correction for the effects of stimulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1149
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • deglutition
  • deglutition disorders
  • feedforward
  • laryngeal vestibule
  • larynx
  • movement schema
  • transcutaneous neuromuscular stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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