A comprehensive assessment of genioglossus electromyographic activity in healthy adults

Jennifer R. Vranish, E. Fiona Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The genioglossus (GG) is an extrinsic muscle of the human tongue that plays a critical role in preserving airway patency. In the last quarter century, >50 studies have reported on respiratory-related GG electromyographic (EMG) activity in human subjects. Remarkably, of the studies performed, none have duplicated subject body position, electrode recording locations, and/or breathing task(s), making interpretation and integration of the results across studies extremely challenging. In addition, more recent research assessing lingual anatomy and muscle contractile properties has identified regional differences in muscle fiber type and myosin heavy chain expression, giving rise to the possibility that the anterior and posterior regions of the muscle fulfill distinct functions. Here, we assessed EMG activity in anterior and posterior regions of the GG, across upright and supine, in rest breathing and in volitionally modulated breathing tasks. We tested the hypotheses that GG EMG is greater in the posterior region and in supine, except when breathing is subject to volitional modulation. Our results show differences in the magnitude of EMG (%regional maximum) between anterior and posterior muscle regions (7.95 ± 0.57 vs. 11.10 ± 0.99, respectively; P< 0.001), and between upright and supine (8.63 ± 0.73 vs. 10.42 ± 0.90, respectively; P = 0.008). Although the nature of a task affects the magnitude of EMG (P < 0.001), the effect is similar for anterior and posterior muscle regions and across upright and supine (P > 0.2).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2692-2699
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Electrode
  • Electromyography
  • Respiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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