Chewing and Swallowing

Chewing and swallowing of food requires coordinated action of facial, jaw, tongue, soft palate, pharyngeal, and upper esophageal striated muscles. The relevant somatic lower motoneurons are located in a rostro-caudal column of cells, situated in the ventrolateral pons and medulla (VII, IX, and XI), in a more dorsomedial column of cells, just ventral to the central canal and the floor of the fourth ventricle (XII). Details of the premotor neurons and interneurons responsible for coordinating the activity of the different lower motoneurons are sparse. The relevant cells, situated in the reticular formation ventrolateral to the hypoglos-sal nucleus, presumably have built-in coordinating programs. These neurons must receive input from the forebrain (for voluntary chewing and swallowing) and from the nucleus of the tractus solitarius, the termination site of glossopharyngeal and vagal afferents originating in the pharynx and the esophagus (for reflex swallowing, among many other things).

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