Anatomic consequences of intrinsic tongue muscle activation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations


We recently showed respiratory-related coactivation of both extrinsic and intrinsic tongue muscles in the rat. Here, we test the hypothesis that intrinsic tongue muscles contribute importantly to changes in velopharyngeal airway volume. Spontaneously breathing anesthetized rats were placed in a MRI scanner. A catheter was placed in the hypopharynx and connected to a pressure source. Axial and sagittal images of the velopharyngeal airway were obtained, and the volume of each image was computed at airway pressures ranging from +5.0 to -5.0 cmH2O. We obtained images in the hypoglossal intact animal (i.e., coactivation of intrinsic and extrinsic tongue muscles) and after selective denervation of the intrinsic tongue muscles, with and without electrical stimulation. Denervation of the intrinsic tongue muscles reduced velopharyngeal airway volume at atmospheric and positive airway pressures. Electrical stimulation of the intact hypoglossal nerve increased velopharyngeal airway volume; however, when stimulation was repeated after selective denervation of the intrinsic tongue muscles, the increase in velopharyngeal airway volume was significantly attenuated. These findings support our working hypothesis that intrinsic tongue muscles play a critical role in modulating upper airway patency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1377-1385
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006



  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Sleep apnea
  • Velopharynx

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this