Evaluating swallowing muscles essential for hyolaryngeal elevation by using muscle functional magnetic resonance imaging

William G. Pearson, David F. Hindson, Susan E. Langmore, Ann C. Zumwalt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Purpose: Reduced hyolaryngeal elevation, a critical event in swallowing, is associated with radiation therapy. Two muscle groups that suspend the hyoid, larynx, and pharynx have been proposed to elevate the hyolaryngeal complex: the suprahyoid and longitudinal pharyngeal muscles. Thought to assist both groups is the thyrohyoid, a muscle intrinsic to the hyolaryngeal complex. Intensity modulated radiation therapy guidelines designed to preserve structures important to swallowing currently exclude the suprahyoid and thyrohyoid muscles. This study used muscle functional magnetic resonance imaging (mfMRI) in normal healthy adults to determine whether both muscle groups are active in swallowing and to test therapeutic exercises thought to be specific to hyolaryngeal elevation. Methods and Materials: mfMRI data were acquired from 11 healthy subjects before and after normal swallowing and after swallowing exercise regimens (the Mendelsohn maneuver and effortful pitch glide). Whole-muscle transverse relaxation time (T2 signal, measured in milliseconds) profiles of 7 test muscles were used to evaluate the physiologic response of each muscle to each condition. Changes in effect size (using the Cohen d measure) of whole-muscle T2 profiles were used to determine which muscles underlie swallowing and swallowing exercises. Results: Post-swallowing effect size changes (where a d value of >0.20 indicates significant activity during swallowing) for the T2 signal profile of the thyrohyoid was a d value of 0.09; a d value of 0.40 for the mylohyoid, 0.80 for the geniohyoid, 0.04 for the anterior digastric, and 0.25 for the posterior digastric-stylohyoid in the suprahyoid muscle group; and d values of 0.47 for the palatopharyngeus and 0.28 for the stylopharyngeus muscles in the longitudinal pharyngeal muscle group. The Mendelsohn maneuver and effortful pitch glide swallowing exercises showed significant effect size changes for all muscles tested, except for the thyrohyoid. Conclusions: Muscles of both the suprahyoid and the longitudinal pharyngeal muscle groups are active in swallowing, and both swallowing exercises effectively target muscles elevating the hyolaryngeal complex. mfMRI is useful in testing swallowing muscle function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-740
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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