Cerebral cortical processing of swallowing in older adults

Exp Brain Res. 2007 Jan;176(1):12-22. doi: 10.1007/s00221-006-0592-6. Epub 2006 Aug 5.


While brain-imaging studies in young adults have implicated multiple cortical regions in swallowing, investigations in older subjects are lacking. This study examined the neural representations of voluntary saliva swallowing and water swallowing in older adults. Nine healthy females were examined with event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while laryngeal swallow-related movements were recorded. Swallowing in the older adults, like young adults, activated multiple cortical regions, most prominently the lateral pericentral, perisylvian, and anterior cingulate cortex. Activation of the postcentral gyrus was lateralized to the left hemisphere for saliva and water swallowing, consistent with our findings in young female subjects. Comparison of saliva and water swallowing revealed a fourfold increase in the brain volume activated by the water swallow compared to the saliva swallow, particularly within the right premotor and prefrontal cortex. This task-specific activation pattern may represent a compensatory response to the demands of the water swallow in the face of age-related diminution of oral sensorimotor function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Deglutition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Saliva / physiology
  • Water


  • Water
  • Oxygen