Genioglossus motor unit activity in supine and upright postures in obstructive sleep apnea
School of Medical and Health Sciences
© Sleep Research Society 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Sleep Research Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This study investigated whether a change in posture affected the activity of the upper-airway dilator muscle genioglossus in participants with and without obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During wakefulness, a monopolar needle electrode was used to record single motor unit activity in genioglossus in supine and upright positions to alter the gravitational load that causes narrowing of the upper airway. Activity from 472 motor units was recorded during quiet breathing in 17 males, nine of whom had OSA. The mean number of motor units for each participant was 11.8 (SD 3.4) in the upright and 16.0 (SD 4.2) in the supine posture. For respiratory-modulated motor units, there were no significant differences in discharge frequencies between healthy controls and participants with OSA. Within each breath, genioglossus activity increased through the recruitment of phasic motor units and an increase in firing rate, with an overall increase of ~6 Hz (50%) across both postures and participant groups. However, the supine posture did not lead to compensatory increases in the peak discharge frequencies of inspiratory and expiratory motor units, despite the increase in gravitational load on the upper airway. Posture also had no significant effect on the discharge frequency of motor units that showed no respiratory modulation during quiet breathing. We postulate that, in wakefulness, any increase in genioglossus activity to compensate for the gravitational effects on the upper airway is achieved primarily through the recruitment of additional motor units in both healthy controls and participants with OSA.