09.03.2021 | Original Article
Effect of Volitional Effort on Submental Surface Electromyographic Activity During Healthy Swallowing
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The effortful swallowing technique aims to compensate for or rehabilitate impaired swallowing by using maximal volitional effort to behaviorally modify aspects of swallowing physiology. Given that swallowing is a submaximal task, swallowing at submaximal levels has recently been suggested as a more task-specific therapeutic technique. The aim of this study was to investigate differences in muscle activity during minimum, regular, and maximum effort swallowing of different boluses and across different ages, with the goal of characterizing the task specificity of minimum effort and maximum effort swallowing. Forty-three healthy adults (22 female) representing four age groups (20–39, 40–59, 60–79, and 80 + years) participated in the study. They were verbally cued to swallow saliva and 5 mL water boluses using participant-determined minimum, regular, and maximum levels of effort, in randomized order. sEMG peak amplitude and duration of each swallow were measured. Linear mixed effects analyses demonstrated that compared to regular effort swallowing, maximum effort swallowing resulted in increased sEMG amplitude (p < .001) and prolonged duration (p < .001), while minimum effort swallowing resulted in decreased amplitude (p < .001) but no significant difference in duration (p = .06). These effects occurred regardless of age or bolus type. Differences in sEMG activity were smaller between regular and minimum effort swallowing than regular and maximum effort swallowing. Both increasing and decreasing volitional efforts during swallowing translate to significant modulation of muscle activity. However, regular swallowing is more similar to minimal effort swallowing. Results reinforce the concept of swallowing as a submaximal task, and provide insight into the development of sEMG biofeedback techniques for rehabilitation.