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Characteristics of the swallowing reflex induced by peripheral nerve and brain stem stimulation

Experimental Neurology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0014-4886(72)90168-9


Abstract Electrical stimulation of the brain stem through a multiple electrode array indicates that discrete sites evoke the buccopharyngeal component of the swallow. Variation of pulse patterns indicate that the frequency specificity of internal laryngeal nerve stimulation is maintained within the brain stem pathways evoking the swallowing. This frequency specificity suggests that the optimum frequencies of electrical stimulation simulate the integrative input of fibers of the nerve and determine the motor response and synergy of active muscles (i.e., glottic closure, vomiting). Histological verification of the electrode positions in the brain stem indicates that positive points are heavily clustered ventral to the solitarius complex in the dorsal reticular formation. This region receives divergent sensory inflow, particularly from the solitarius complex, and has extensive connections with many of the cranial motor nuclei and the brain stem reticular formation. The most rostral positive points are located in the medial reticular formation at the rostral pole of the inferior olive, a region which previous studies indicated must remain intact for the sequential muscular activity of the buccopharyngeal phase of the swallowing reflex. Evidence suggests a diversified pathway for the control of the swallow originating with the primary afferent fibers in the tractus solitarius. It suggests a sensory-integrative segment located in the dorsal reticular formation ventral to the solitarius complex and a more rostral extension to a discrete magnocellular region of the reticular formation which serves as the final penultimate pathway for motor nuclei control.

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