Characterising the central mechanisms of sensory modulation in human swallowing motor cortex

David Gow, Anthony R. Hobson, Paul L. Furlong, Shaheen Hamdy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Pharyngeal stimulation can induce remarkable increases in the excitability of swallowing motor cortex, which is associated with short-term improvements in swallowing behaviour in dysphagic stroke patients. However, the mechanism by which this input induces cortical change remains unclear. Our aims were to explore the stimulus-induced facilitation of the cortico-bulbar projections to swallowing musculature and examine how input from the pharynx interacts with swallowing motor cortex. Methods: In 8 healthy subjects, a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) paired-pulse investigation was performed comprising a single conditioning electrical pharyngeal stimulus (pulse width 0.2 ms, 240 V) followed by cortical TMS at inter-stimulus intervals (ISI) of 10-100 ms. Pharyngeal sensory evoked potentials (PSEP) were also measured over the vertex. In 6 subjects whole-brain magnetoencephalography (MEG) was further acquired following pharyngeal stimulation. Results: TMS evoked pharyngeal motor evoked potentials were facilitated by the pharyngeal stimulus at ISI between 50 and 80 ms (Δ mean increase: 47±6%, P<0.05). This correlated with the peak latency of the P1 component of the PSEP (mean 79.6±8.5 ms). MEG confirmed that the equivalent P1 peak activities were localised to caudolateral sensory and motor cortices (BA 4, 1, 2). Conclusions: Facilitation of the cortico-bulbar pathway to pharyngeal stimulation relates to coincident afferent input to sensorimotor cortex. Significance: These findings have mechanistic importance on how pharyngeal stimulation may increase motor excitability and provide guidance on temporal windows for future manipulations of swallowing motor cortex. © 2004 International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2382-2390
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • excitability
  • magentoencephalography
  • motor cortex
  • pharynx
  • somatosensory cortex
  • swallowing
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation


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