Effect of head and jaw position on respiratory-related motion of the genioglossus

Mingshu Cai, Elizabeth C. Brown, Alice Hatt, Shaokoon Cheng, Lynne E. Bilston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Head and jaw position influence upper airway patency and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the main upper airway dilator muscle, the genioglossus. However, it is not known whether changes in genioglossus EMG activity translate into altered muscle movement during respiration. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of head and jaw position on dilatory motion of the genioglossus in healthy adult men during quiet breathing by measuring the displacement of the posterior tongue in six positions-neutral, head extension, head rotation, head flexion, mouth opening, and mandibular advancement. Respiratory-related motion of the genioglossus was imaged with spatial modulation of magnetization (SPAMM) in 12 awake male participants. Tissue displacement was quantified with harmonic phase (HARP) analysis. The genioglossus moved anteriorly beginning immediately before or during inspiration, and there was greater movement in the oropharynx than in the velopharynx in all positions. Anterior displacements of the oropharyngeal tongue varied between neutral head position (0.81 ± 0.41 mm), head flexion (0.62 ± 0.45 mm), extension (0.39 ± 0.19 mm), axial rotation (0.39 ± 0.2 mm), mouth open (1.24 ± 0.72 mm), and mandibular advancement (1.08 ± 0.65 mm). Anteroposterior displacement increased in the mouth-open position and decreased in the rotated position relative to cross-sectional area (CSA) (P = 0.002 and 0.02, respectively), but CSA did not independently predict anteroposterior movement overall (P = 0.057). The findings of this study suggest that head position influences airway dilation during inspiration and may contribute to variation in airway patency in different head positions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-765
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Eupnea
  • Genioglossus movement
  • Head and jaw position


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