Intensity and frequency dependence of laryngeal afferent inputs to respiratory hypoglossal motoneurons

Steven W. Mifflin

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Inspiratory hypoglossal motoneurons (IHMs) mediate contraction of the genioglossus muscle and contribute to the regulation of upper airway patency. Intracellular recordings were obtained from antidromically identified IHMs in anesthetized, vagotomized cats, and IHM responses to electrical activation of superior laryngeal nerve (SLN) afferent fibers at various frequencies and intensities were examined. SLN stimulus frequencies <2 Hz evoked an excitatory-inhibitory postsynaptic potential (EPSP-IPSP) sequence or only an IPSP in most IHMs that did not change in amplitude as the stimulus was maintained. During sustained stimulus frequencies of 5-10 Hz, there was a reduction in the amplitude of SLN-evoked IPSPs with time with variable changes in the EPSP. At stimulus frequencies >25 Hz, the amplitude of EPSPs and IPSPs was reduced over time. At a given stimulus frequency, increasing stimulus intensity enhanced the decay of the SLN-evoked postsynaptic potentials (PSPs). Frequency-dependent attenuation of SLN inputs to IHMs also occurred in newborn kittens. These results suggest that activation of SLN afferents evokes different PSP responses in IHMs depending on the stimulus frequency. At intermediate frequencies, inhibitory inputs are selectively filtered so that excitatory inputs predominate. At higher frequencies there was no discernible SLN-evoked PSP temporally locked to the SLN stimuli. Alterations in SLN-evoked PSPs could play a role in the coordination of genioglossal contraction during respiration, swallowing, and other complex motor acts where laryngeal afferents are activated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1890-1899
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997


  • Airway- maintaining muscles and reflexes
  • Control of breathing
  • Neonatal respiration
  • Upper airway patency


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