The Effects of Electrical Stimulation Pulse Duration on Lingual Palatal Pressure Measures During Swallowing in Healthy Older Adults

Ali Barikroo, Karen Hegland, Giselle Carnaby, Donald Bolser, Todd Manini, Michael Crary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Limited research in swallowing physiology has suggested that the most common existing transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TES) protocol (VitalStim) may not penetrate to layers of tissue to affect deep swallowing muscles. TES amplitude is the primary parameter that determines the depth of electrical current penetration (DECP). Preliminary work suggests that replacing a long-pulse duration with a short-pulse duration can increase maximum amplitude tolerance (MAT) within subjects’ comfort level. Increasing MAT may indicate a higher DECP. The current study evaluates this premise in reference to the effects of varying pulse duration on lingual-palatal pressure during swallowing. Thirty healthy older adults (60–70 years of age) participated in this study. Each subject swallowed three trials of 10 mL pudding under three TES conditions: no stimulation, short-pulse duration, and long-pulse duration. TES was delivered using two pairs of surface electrodes on the submental muscles. MAT and perceived discomfort levels were identified separately for short and long-pulse TES conditions. Lingual-palatal peak pressure, pressure integral, and pressure duration were measured under each condition. Two-way repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to identify within subject effects of TES condition and tongue bulb location. Lingual-palatal pressure and pressure integral were significantly reduced in the short-pulse duration condition. MAT was significantly higher in the short-pulse duration versus the long-pulse duration condition. Furthermore, MAT was significantly correlated with lingual-palatal pressure. Changing pulse duration had no significant impact on tongue pressure duration. Results suggest that a short-pulse duration may penetrate deeper into muscles involved in swallowing. The specific impact is reflected in a reduced upward pressure of the tongue on the palate during swallowing. This ‘restrictive’ effect of TES on tongue pressure may have the potential to be used during a resistive exercise paradigm for tongue elevation during swallowing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-539
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing


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