EMG activity in hyoid muscles during pig suckling

A. J. Thexton, A. W. Crompton, R. Z. German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Infant suckling is a complex behavior that includes cycles of rhythmic sucking as well as intermittent swallows. This behavior has three cycle types: 1) suck cycles, when milk is obtained from the teat and moved posteriorly into the valleculae in the oropharynx; 2) suckswallow cycles, which include both a rhythmic suck and a pharyngeal swallow, where milk is moved out of the valleculae, past the larynx, and into the esophagus; and 3) postswallow suck cycles, immediately following the suck-swallow cycles. Because muscles controlling these behaviors are active in all three types of cycles, we tested the hypothesis that different patterns of electromyographic (EMG) activity in the mylohyoid, hyoglossus, stylohyoid, and thyrohyoid muscles of the pig characterized each cycle type. Anterior mylohyoid EMG activity occurred regularly in every cycle and was used as a cycle marker. Thyrohyoid activity, indicating the pharyngeal swallow, was immediately preceded by increased stylohyoid and hyoglossus activity; it divided the suck-swallow cycle into two phases. Timed from the onset of the suck-swallow cycle, the first phase had a relatively fixed duration while the duration of the second phase, timed from the thyrohyoid, varied directly with cycle duration. In short-duration cycles, the second phase could have a zero duration so that thyrohyoid activity extended into the postswallow cycle. In such cycles, all swallowing activity that occurred after the thyrohyoid EMG and was associated with bolus passage through the pharynx fell into the postswallow cycle. These data suggest that while the activity of some muscles, innervated by trigeminal and cervical plexus nerves, may be time locked to the cycle onset in swallowing, the cycle period itself is not. The postswallow cycle consequently contains variable amounts of pharyngeal swallowing EMG activity. The results exemplify the complexity of the relationship between rhythmic sucking and the swallow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1512-1519
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Dysphagia
  • Electromyographic
  • Motor activity
  • Swallowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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