Open Access Research article

Measurement of pharyngeal sensory cortical processing: technique and physiologic implications

Inga K Teismann12*, Olaf Steinstraeter1, Tobias Warnecke2, E Bernd Ringelstein2, Christo Pantev1 and Rainer Dziewas2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Biomagnetism and Biosignalanalysis, University of Muenster, Malmedyweg 15, 48149 Muenster, Germany

2 Department of Neurology, University of Muenster, Albert-Schweitzer-Str.33, 48149 Muenster, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-76

Published: 14 July 2009



Dysphagia is a major complication of different diseases affecting both the central and peripheral nervous system. Pharyngeal sensory impairment is one of the main features of neurogenic dysphagia. Therefore an objective technique to examine the cortical processing of pharyngeal sensory input would be a helpful diagnostic tool in this context. We developed a simple paradigm to perform pneumatic stimulation to both sides of the pharyngeal wall. Whole-head MEG was employed to study changes in cortical activation during this pharyngeal stimulation in nine healthy subjects. Data were analyzed by means of synthetic aperture magnetometry (SAM) and the group analysis of individual SAM data was performed using a permutation test.


Our results revealed bilateral activation of the caudolateral primary somatosensory cortex following sensory pharyngeal stimulation with a slight lateralization to the side of stimulation.


The method introduced here is simple and easy to perform and might be applicable in the clinical setting. The results are in keeping with previous findings showing bihemispheric involvement in the complex task of sensory pharyngeal processing. They might also explain changes in deglutition after hemispheric strokes. The ipsilaterally lateralized processing is surprising and needs further investigation.