Electrical activity from the superior pharyngeal constrictor during reflexive and nonreflexive tasks

J Speech Hear Res. 1989 Dec;32(4):749-54. doi: 10.1044/jshr.3204.749.


The purpose of this investigation was to determine, in a quantitative manner, which, if any, nonswallowing tasks produce significant levels of activation in the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle of normal human subjects. Bipolar hooked wire electrodes were inserted in the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle of 15 healthy subjects. Electrode placement was controlled. Each subject performed two reflexive tasks, six voluntary tasks requiring phonation, and four nonspeech voluntary tasks. The electromyogram (EMG) was rectified and integrated. The resulting number was then transformed by taking its natural logarithm. An ANOVA was performed and a linear model was estimated. The magnitude of the EMG activity was related to the location of the electrodes. The largest values were recorded in the lateral-superior placement, followed by the lateral-inferior, medial-inferior and medial-superior. The superior pharyngeal contrictor was found to be a muscle activated primarily during reflexive activity. There was a general trend in the amplitude of EMG activity in relationship to task. Swallowing produced the greatest amount of activity and a gag produced about 60% of the activity produced by the swallow. Two tasks, production of the work /hok/ in which the phoneme /k/ was stressed, and a "modified Valsalva," which was actually a hard /k/ held for several seconds, produced the next greatest level of EMG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deglutition / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Gagging / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Laughter / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Pharynx / physiology*
  • Phonation / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology
  • Valsalva Maneuver / physiology
  • Voice / physiology*