The aim of this prospective observational study was to determine the associations among age, maximum lingual isometric pressures, and maximum swallow pressures in specific regions of the tongue. Individuals 21 years and older who reported normal swallowing were enrolled. Seventy-one healthy adults were stratified by age into young (21–40 years), middle (41–60), and old (61–82) groups. Maximum pressures were measured for each individual during isometric tongue press tasks as well as saliva, 5, and 10 mL thin liquid bolus swallows at 5 sensors located on the hard palate: front, middle, left, right, and back. Lower maximum lingual pressures for all tasks were associated with increased age (p < 0.04). Saliva pressures exhibited a different pressure pattern than bolus swallows with pressures higher than bolus swallows on middle (p < 0.03) and back (p < 0.05) tongue sensors but not in the front. Diminished swallow pressure reserve (maximum isometric pressure–maximum swallow pressure) also was found with increased age (p < 0.03). Isometric pressures were greater than swallow pressures in young and middle age groups at both the front (p < 0.04) and back (p < 0.03) sensors, but only significantly greater at the front sensor for the oldest group (p < 0.04). Older healthy adults have lower lingual isometric pressures and lower swallow pressures than younger healthy adults. Elders have a decreased swallow pressure reserve to draw upon during occasions of physiological stress. While the exact mechanisms for age-related decline in lingual pressures remain unclear, they are likely due, at least in part, to sarcopenia. Saliva, 5, and 10 mL thin boluses also exhibit different age-related declines in pressure at specific sensors, indicating they may elicit different muscle activation patterns.
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The authors would like to thank Ronald Gangnon, PhD, for his guidance regarding statistical analysis for this manuscript. This article is the result of work supported by resources at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UW SMPH), the University of Wisconsin Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Madison, Wisconsin. The manuscript was prepared at the William S. Middleton Veteran Affairs Hospital in Madison, WI; GRECC manuscript #2015-016. The views and content expressed in this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position, policy, or official views of the Department of Veteran Affairs or the U.S. government.
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Conflict of Interest
There are no relevant conflicts of interest to report for Nicole Rogus-Pulia, Naomi Humpal, or Kelsey Banaszynski. Jacqueline Hind is an employee of Swallow Solutions, LLC. JoAnne Robbins is inventor on patents administered through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, two of which have been licensed, one to Bracco Diagnostic Imaging and another to Swallow Solutions, LLC of which she is the founder.
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