2017 Volume 59 Issue 2 Pages 183-188
The tongue can move freely and is important in oral motor functions. Tongue movement must be coordinated with movement of the hyoid, mandible, and pharyngeal wall, to which it is attached. Our previous study using isolated brainstem-spinal cord preparations showed that application of N-methyl-D-aspartate induces rhythmic activity in the hypoglossal nerve that is coincident with rhythmic activity in the ipsilateral trigeminal motor nerve. Partial or complete midline transection of the preparation only abolishes activity in the trigeminal motor nerve; therefore, the neuronal network contributing to coordinated activity of the jaw/tongue muscles is located on both sides of the preparation and sends motor commands to contralateral trigeminal motoneurons. Arterially perfused decerebrate rat preparations exhibit stable inspiratory activity in the phrenic nerve, with efferent nerves innervating the upper airway muscles (the hypoglossal nerve, a branch of the cervical spinal nerve, the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve) under normocapnic conditions (5% CO2). During hypercapnia (8% CO2), pre-inspiratory discharges appear in all nerves innervating upper airway muscles. Such coordinated activity in the pre-inspiratory phase contributes to dilation of the upper airway and improves hypercapnia.