A randomized controlled trial comparing physical and mental lingual exercise for healthy older adults

Author, Researcher, or Creator

Lindsay Griffin, Emerson CollegeFollow

Affiliation of Author, Researcher, or Creator

School of Communication




Szynkiewicz, S.H., Kamarunas, E., Drulia, T., Nobriga, C.V., Griffin, L., & O’Donoghue, C.R.

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Brief Description

Mental practice using motor imagery (MP-MI) has been shown to improve motor outcomes of upper and lower extremities especially when combined with physical exercise. Here, we studied community-dwelling, healthy older adults to determine the effects of including an MP-MI component with lingual strengthening exercise. In this pilot study, twenty-nine typically aging participants were assigned to an intervention group: physical lingual exercise (n = 7), physical and MP-MI lingual exercise (n = 8), MPMI lingual exercise (n = 7), or a control group (placebo exercise) (n = 7). All participants completed the assigned exercise regimen with three sessions per day, three days a week, for 6 consecutive weeks. Maximum isometric pressure (MIP) and regular effort saliva swallowing (RESS) pressure were collected at baseline and weeks 2, 4, and 6. A post hoc Bonferroni corrected treatment effect from baseline to week 6 was shown for only participants in the MP-MI/Physical exercise group for MIP (p = 0.003 MPMI/ Physical group; p = 0.11 Control group; p = 0.32 Physical only group; p = 0.14 MP-MI only group) and RESS (p = 0.009 MP-MI/Physical group; p = 0.14 Control group; p = 0.10 Physical only group; p = 0.04 MP-MI only group). Findings also indicate spontaneous carryover of significantly increased swallowing pressure when mental and physical exercise are combined. In conclusion, the potential effect of including an MPMI lingual exercise component in preventative and rehabilitative frameworks with older persons to possibly enhance functional swallowing improvement is promising and should be investigated.


Swallowing, dysphagia, deglutition disorders, rehabilitation, mental practice, motor imagery

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