How tongue muscles influence upper airway function

A. R. Schwarte, C. P. O'Donnell, J. A. Rowley, P. L. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To determine how tongue muscles influence upper airway function, we selectively denervated and electrically stimulated these muscles in the isolated feline upper airway and in a sleeping apneic human, respectively. Upper airway pressure-flow relationships were analyzed during periods of inspiratory airflow limitation to determine responses in maximal inspiratory airflow (V̇Imax) and the pharyngeal critical pressure (Peril). In the isolated feline upper airway, hypercapnea (10% F1CO2) was utilized to induce generalized activation of the pharyngeal musculature and compared to hypocapnia (1.3% F1CO2) before and after bilateral transection of the cervical strap muscles and the hypoglossal nerves. We observed a significant increase in V̇Imax and decrease in Pcrit during hypercapnic breathing. These changes were not significantly attenuated by transecting the cervical muscles and hypoglossal nerve. In contrast, electrical stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve in two sleeping apneic patients significantly increased V̇Imax and decreased Pcrit, although inspiratory airflow limitation persisted. These findings suggest that genioglossal activity can decrease airflow obstruction by decreasing pharyngeal collapsibility, but that this muscle acts in concert with others to modulate upper airway function dynamically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)A667
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 20 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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