Activities of human genioglossus motor units

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Upper airway muscles play an important role in regulating airway lumen and in increasing the ability of the pharynx to remain patent in the face of subatmospheric intraluminal pressures produced during inspiration. Due to the considerable technical challenges associated with recording from muscles of the upper airway, much of the experimental work conducted in human subjects has centered on recording respiratory-related activities of the extrinsic tongue protudor muscle, the genioglossus (GG). The GG is one of eight muscles that invest the human tongue (Abd-El-Malek, 1939). All eight muscles are innervated by the hypoglossal nerve (cranial nerve XII) the cell bodies of which are located in the hypoglossal motor nucleus (HMN) of the caudal medulla. Much of the earlier work on the respiratory-related activity of XII motoneurons was based on recordings obtained from single motor axons dissected from the whole XII nerve or from whole muscle GG EMG recordings. Detailed information regarding respiratory-related GG motor unit activities was lacking until as recently as 2006. This paper examines key findings that have emerged from the last decade of work conducted in human subjects. Wherever appropriate, these results are compared with results obtained from in vitro and in vivo studies conducted in non-human mammals. The review is written with the objective of facilitating some discussion and some new thoughts regarding future research directions. The material is framed around four topics: (a) motor unit type, (b) rate coding and recruitment,

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-22
Number of pages9
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 15 2011


  • Hypoglossal
  • Respiration
  • Upper airway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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