Surface electromyograph activity of submental muscles during swallowing and expiratory muscle training tasks in Huntington’s disease patients
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
Introduction: Huntington’s disease (HD) patients have difficulty in swallowing, leading to aspiration pneumonia, which is a major cause of death. It seems possible that submental muscles that are crucial for preventing an escape of a bolus into the airway, are affected by HD, but no previous studies have investigated this. Objective: To assess surface electromyograph (sEMG) activity of submental muscles during swallowing and expiratory muscle training (EMT) tasks in HD patients in comparison to healthy volunteers. Methods: sEMG activities of submental muscles during saliva, water swallowing, EMT tasks performed at 25% and 75% of maximum expiratory pressure were recorded and normalised by the sEMG activity during an effortful swallow in 17 early to mid stage HD patients and 17 healthy volunteers. Results: sEMG activity was greater (p < 0.05) during EMT tasks than saliva and water swallowing, but was not significantly different between groups for saliva, water swallowing and EMT at 25%. HD patients had lower sEMG activity for EMT at 75% (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Decreases in submental muscle activity were not evident in HD patients except during EMT at 75%. This suggests that relative submental muscle weakness is observed only during a high intensity task in early to mid stage HD patients.