The Tongue and its Control by Sleep State-Dependent Modulators

R. L. Horner


The neural networks controlling vital functions such as breathing are embedded in the brain, the neural and chemical environment of which changes with state, i.e., wakefulness, non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and REM sleep, and with commonly administered drugs such as anaesthetics, sedatives and ethanol. One particular output from the state-dependent chemical brain is the focus of attention in this paper; the motor output to the muscles of the tongue, specifically the actions of state-dependent modulators acting at the hypoglossal motor pool. Determining the mechanisms underlying the modulation of the hypoglossal motor output during sleep is relevant to understanding the spectrum of increased upper airway resistance, airflow limitation, hypoventilation and airway obstructions that occur during natural and drug-influenced sleep in humans. Understanding the mechanisms underlying upper airway dysfunction in sleep-disordered breathing is also important given the large and growing prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome which constitutes a major public health problem with serious clinical, social and economic consequences.


Sleep, Hypoglossal Motor Nucleus, Tongue, Genioglossus Muscle, Medulla, Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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