Respiratory related control of hypoglossal motoneurons--Knowing what we do not know

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26 Scopus citations


Because tongue position and stiffness help insure that the pharyngeal airspace is sufficiently open during breathing, the respiration-related behavior of the tongue muscles has been studied in detail, particularly during the last two decades. Although eight different muscles act upon the mammal tongue, we know very little about the respiration-related control of the majority of these, and almost nothing about how they work together as a complex electro-mechanical system. Other significant gaps include how hypoglossal motoneuron axons find their appropriate muscle target during development, whether the biophysical properties of hypoglossal motoneurons driving different muscles are the same, and how afferent information from cardiorespiratory reflex systems is transmitted from major brainstem integrating centers to the hypoglossal motoneuron pool. This brief review outlines some of these issues, with the hope that this will spur research in the field, ultimately leading to an improved understanding of the respiration-related control of the mammalian tongue musculature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 15 2011


  • Control of breathing
  • Hypoglossal motoneurons
  • Interneurons
  • Tongue muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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