Phonation-induced Upper Esophageal Sphincter Contraction Caused by Different Phonation Types



      The upper esophageal sphincter (UES) has been reported to show activity during phonation. As it is still unknown whether the phonation-induced UES contraction represents a reflex or a simultaneous activation phenomenon, i.e. co-innervation, this study aims to investigate and characterize the phonation-induced contraction of the UES in healthy individuals by analyzing the influence of various phonation tasks on pressure parameters of the UES.


      Twenty-five healthy volunteers produced the German neutral vowel [ə] in five different phonation tasks (modal voice, whispering, voiceless speech, creaky voice, and whispery voice). Simultaneously, they underwent high resolution manometry and electroglottography for measurement of pressure parameters in the region of the UES and latencies between larynx and UES activation.


      During all types of phonation, the maximum pressures of the UES increased significantly (maximum pressure increases of 72%-132%). With regard to mean pressures this was valid for modal voice and whispering (mean pressure increases of 20%-25%). Differences concerning total pressure changes reached statistical significance when comparing whispering and voiceless speech as well as whispery voice. However, differences concerning the total pressure change between modal voices on the one hand and voiceless speech and whispery voice on the other hand turned out to be small. The averaged time delay between larynx and UES activation ranged from approximately -15 ms (whispery voice) to +15 ms (whispering).


      A phonation induced pressure increase of the UES was confirmed in this study and did exist for different types of phonation. The extent of total pressure changes in the UES increases in relation with laryngeal muscle activity necessary for the phonation type. Next to varying effects of different types of phonation on UES activation, very short latencies indicate that a phonation induced contraction of the UES exists most likely due to co-innervation of UES and laryngeal muscles by the vagus nerve.

      Key Words


      UES (upper esophageal sphincter), HRM (high-resolution manometry), EGG (electroglottography)
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