Last updated on April 2019

Motor Imagery Exercise and Tongue Strength


Brief description of study

This research study is a six-week treatment pilot study to compare the effects of different exercise types on measures of tongue strength and swallowing pressure in typically aging older adults. Typically-aging older adults represent a group "at risk" for dysphagia secondary to sarcopenia of striated musculature important to swallowing. Participants at all study sites will be randomly selected into one of four study exercise groups. At some study sites, the investigators will also determine cortical activation patterns differences during motor execution and motor imagery of tongue exercises between the groups using near-infrared spectroscopy. The results of this study will inform refinement/further development of the mental practice protocol to use with patients with dysphagia in future studies.

Detailed Study Description

Although motor imagery (MI) has not yet been researched in the field of swallowing rehabilitation, the potential benefit is far reaching. Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can occur in people who have a history of stroke, head injury, neurological disease (such as Parkinson's disease, ALS, etc.), and head/neck cancer. A person with dysphagia may have difficulty eating everyday foods and may require an altered diet, such as tube feedings or pureed foods. Because of this, having dysphagia is often associated with increased feelings of isolation and depression. Speech-language pathologists work with people with dysphagia to rehabilitate their swallow, with the goal of reducing their risk of choking and improving their ability to eat normal foods. The use of MI as a way to augment dysphagia rehabilitation has implications for patients who aren't safe to have any food by mouth as well as those who fatigue easily.

This research study is a six-week treatment pilot study to determine the effect of motor imagery for tongue strengthening exercises on measures of tongue strength and swallowing pressure in typically aging older adults. Typically-aging older adults represent a group "at risk" for dysphagia secondary to sarcopenia of striated musculature important to swallowing. Participants at all study sites will be randomly selected into one of four groups: 1) placebo (active jaw open against resistance/close against resistance/lateralize/protrusion exercises with relaxation exercises), 2) active tongue exercises against resistance only, 3) active tongue exercises against resistance + motor imagery of tongue exercises against resistance, and 4) motor imagery of tongue exercises against resistance only. In some participants the investigators will also determine cortical activation patterns differences during motor execution and motor imagery of tongue exercises between the groups using near-infrared spectroscopy. The results of this study will inform refinement/further development of the mental practice protocol to use with patients with dysphagia in future studies.

The research questions are as follows:

  1. Does a 6 week treatment of motor imagery tongue exercises with or without active tongue exercise improve tongue strength in healthy older adults compared to a 6 week treatment of placebo exercises and 6 week treatment of active tongue strengthening exercises?
  2. Does a 6 week treatment of motor imagery tongue exercises with or without active tongue exercise improve swallowing pressures in healthy older adults compared to a 6 week treatment of placebo exercises and 6 week treatment of active tongue strengthening exercises?
  3. Does a 6 week treatment of motor imagery tongue exercises with or without active tongue exercise alter cortical hemodynamic response patterns in healthy older adults compared to a 6 week treatment of placebo exercises and 6 week treatment of active tongue strengthening exercises? (JMU participants only).

The investigators hypothesize, based on previous research, that the group receiving both active and MI treatment will make the most gains in all three measures, followed by the active only group, then the MI only group, then the placebo group (control).

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03423095

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Sarah Hegyi Szynkiewicz, PhD, CCC-SLP

Sarasota, FL United States
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