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Structure and Function of the Human Tongue

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00007137
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : December 11, 2000
Last Update Posted : July 2, 2017
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:

This study will use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound to examine changes in tongue volume and blood circulation during tongue exercises that require the use of different tongue muscle movements and contractions. More information on the structure and function of the human tongue is needed to develop better treatments for people with certain diseases affecting speech and swallowing.

Normal volunteers between 21 and 80 years old who live in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area may be eligible for this study. Candidates will be screened with a brief medical history and physical examination, including suitability for MRI testing, and a brief examination of tongue, lip and jaw movements.

Participants will undergo ultrasound and MRI studies. During both tests, they will perform tongue exercises, such as holding a soft round object on the tongue or exerting tongue pressure against the back of the throat or roof of the mouth.

During the ultrasound, the subject lies on a flattened dental chair. A small transducer is placed under the chin to take images of the tongue during the exercises. A thin rubber strip with air-filled pressure bulbs is attached to the roof of the mouth (with dental adhesive) to measure tongue pressure.

For the MRI, the subject lies on a table that slides inside a donut's machine containing a magnetic field. MRI coils-special padded sensors that improve image quality-are placed around the head and neck. A pressure cuff placed around the arm measures blood pressure. The subject wears earplugs to muffle loud thumping noises that occur during electrical switching of the magnetic fields. The subject is in constant visual contact with the researchers and MR technologist and may request to stop the study at any time.

Participants may undergo another procedure, called magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging, to examine how the fluid (water) in the tongue tissue shifts during tongue maneuvers. This procedure is essentially the same as the first MRI study, but two small round coils are placed in the mouth (one on each side) between the cheeks and the teeth.

Condition or disease

Detailed Description:
As an organ unparalleled in anatomical architecture, the tongue has the versatility to effect regional deformations and positional changes with multiple potential degrees of freedom. Despite an abundance of studies on the tongue and its functions, as well as numerous proposed tongue models over the years, much of the anatomical and biomechanical details of the in vivo human tongue remain poorly understood. Physiologically based biomechanical modeling of the tongue in swallowing is the ultimate objective of this protocol. However, before such modeling can be accurately pursued, a substantial database must be established, and several important, unaddressed issues regarding lingual anatomy and biomechanics must be resolved. These issues include: (1) the compressibility of the human tongue and its common, yet untested, reference as a muscular hydrostat; (2) task induced interactions between lingual musculature and vasculature and region-specific vascular demands; (3) changes in lingual fiber orientation, length, and strain distribution as a function of contraction tasks; and (4) effects of normal aging, disease processes, and task training on lingual myoarchitecture as well as the integration between structure and function. Using advanced 3D MRI, Doppler ultrasonography, and other MR imaging techniques (e.g., tagged MRI, diffusion tensor MRI), this protocol proposes to quantitatively address these issues and contribute to a better understanding of the functional biomechanical as well as myoarchitectural intricacies of the in vivo human tongue.

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Study Type : Observational
Enrollment : 165 participants
Official Title: Task-Induced Physiological and Biomechanical Changes of the In Vivo Human Tongue
Study Start Date : December 5, 2000
Study Completion Date : April 11, 2007

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   21 Years to 80 Years   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Volunteers must:

  1. be older than 21 years in age;
  2. reside in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Area;
  3. have no speech, swallowing, respiratory, or cardiac problems;
  4. be able to hold breath for at least 20-30 seconds;
  5. be in good general health;
  6. not be pregnant or nursing;
  7. not be on medications that would adversely affect blood pressure, circulation, pulmonary function, speech, or swallowing ability.

Patients must:

  1. be older than 21 years in age;
  2. not be pregnant or nursing;
  3. have tongue weakness, as confirmed in oral motor examination, associated with neurologic, degenerative, musculoskeletal, or other diseases.


Healthy Volunteers:

  1. Any contraindication for MRI, including:

    pacemaker or other implanted electronic device

    cochlear implants

    metal in the eye

    embedded shrapnel fragments

    cerebral aneurysm clips

    medical infusion pumps

    orthodontic braces, unremovable metal retainer, dental implants, crowns, long metal bridges, large or multiple amalgam fillings

    metal clips or wires in other parts of the body

  2. Medical conditions that present elevated risks or reduced tolerance for an MRI procedure. Examples:


    severe and uncontrolled hypertension

    severe cardiovascular disorders

    dyspnea at rest

    severe claudication (less than 1 flight of steps)

    paralyzed hemidiaphragm

    symptoms of pheochromocytoma or insulinoma


    severe asthma, allergies and postnasal drainage

    uncontrolled renal or hepatic disease

    severe back pain and inability to tolerate supine positioning


    morbid obesity

    pregnancy or lactation

  3. History of swallowing problems or other conditions that adversely affect cardiac function, deglutitive function, tongue motility and control, hearing, language, and cognition.
  4. Unsatisfactory performance status, as judged by the examining speech-language pathologist, that indicates poor compliance for the planned tasks (e.g., oral motor deficits, inability to hold breath for at least 20 seconds).


  1. Any contraindication for MRI, same as 5.2.1 (1);
  2. Medical conditions that present high risks or severely reduced tolerance for an MRI procedure, as determined by or based on consultation with the medically responsible individual (or a designated substitute);
  3. History of other conditions that have severely impaired cardiac function, hearing, language, and cognition.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00007137

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United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Layout table for additonal information Identifier: NCT00007137     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 010044
First Posted: December 11, 2000    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: July 2, 2017
Last Verified: April 11, 2007

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Diffusion Tensor
Healthy Volunteer
Tongue Weakness
Tongue Movement Coordination Problem