Age and gender effects on submental motor-evoked potentials

Oshrat Sella, Richard D. Jones, Maggie Lee Huckabee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is not known whether there are age- and/or gender-related differences in magnitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) of the submental muscles. Knowledge of this is important in investigations of neurophysiological aspects of swallowing. Forty healthy participants (20 males, 20 females; 20 young [21–35 years], 20 old [53–88 years]) were recruited. Surface electromyography (EMG) electrodes were placed at midline underlying the submental muscle group. Age- and gender-related differences were evaluated in two neurophysiologic measures of swallowing: MEPs stimulated by single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the motor cortex and surface electromyography (sEMG) recorded from the same submental muscle group during non-stimulated swallows. The older participants had larger MEPs during saliva swallowing than the young participants (p = 0.04, d = 0.86). Conversely, the older participants had lower amplitude submental EMG activity during non-stimulated swallows (p = 0.045, d = 0.67). Gender had no significant effect on MEP magnitude and on submental activity during saliva swallowing. There were no effects of age or gender on MEP latencies. These findings suggest deterioration in muscle function with age in a sample of healthy adults presenting with functional swallowing. We speculate that muscular decline is partially ameliorated by increased cortical activity—i.e., increased submental MEPs—so as to preserve swallowing function in healthy older subjects. These findings emphasize the need for different reference points for evaluation of submental MEPs of different age groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9735
Issue number6
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, American Aging Association.


  • Age
  • Gender
  • MEP
  • Submental muscles
  • Swallowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging


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