This study will examine whether surface electrical stimulation on the skin of the throat
will: 1) move the larynx (voice box); 2) move the vocal folds in the larynx; and 3) cause
less movement of the larynx when applied during swallowing. It is important that the larynx
moves up and forward while swallowing so that food does not go into the airway. A device
called VitalStim® (Registered Trademark), which provides electrical stimulation to the skin
on the neck and under the chin, is widely used to treat people who have problems swallowing.
This study will determine if VitalStim can move the voice box or the vocal folds in the
larynx. This information is important for patients who have long-term problems raising or
closing their larynxes when they swallow.
Healthy volunteers between 20 and 60 years of age may be eligible for this study. Candidates
are screened with a medical history, physical examination, electrocardiogram, and
nasoendoscopy. For the latter procedure, the inside of the subject's nose is sprayed with a
decongestant, opening the nasal passages. A small flexible tube called a nasoendoscope is
passed through the nose to the back of the throat. The scope allows observation of the
larynx while the subject speaks, sings, whistles and makes prolonged vowel sounds.
Participants are familiarized with the VitalStim device before beginning the experimental
procedures. The device consists of two sets of electrodes and a stimulation unit. The
electrodes are placed on the neck and under the chin. Stimulation causes different
sensations, according to the intensity level. They include "tingling/crawling," "vibrating"
"warm/burning," and "grabbing." Subjects then undergo the following procedures:
- Nasoendoscopy with muscle stimulation: The inside of the nose is sprayed with a
decongestant and the nasoendoscope is passed through one nostril to the back of the
throat. Electrodes are placed on the throat area and under the chin. Stimulation is
delivered 10 times at various places on the neck and under the chin while the subject
sits quietly. This test shows if the vocal folds in the voice box move with surface
- Videofluoroscopy with muscle stimulation at rest and during swallowing: This is an
x-ray study of the head and neck during swallowing and at rest to determine how
stimulation affects the level of the voice box in the neck. Electrodes are placed under
the chin and on the throat. The subject swallows 5 milliliters of barium, a contrast
material that can be seen easily on x-ray. The x-ray machine is turned on for a few
seconds at a time during each swallow of the barium and another 10 times while the
subject is remaining still without swallowing.
The purpose of the current study is to determine whether:
1. Surface electrical stimulation at rest using various electrode placements produces
different hyo-laryngeal movements of in healthy adult humans.
2. One surface electrical stimulation array (placement 3b) reduces hyo-larynegeal movement
in healthy humans during swallowing.
Study Population: healthy adults
Design: This study will employ a repeated measures design. Surface electrodes will be used
to stimulate submental and laryngeal muscles either alone or in combination both at rest and
during swallowing while using videofluoroscopy and nasolaryngoscopy to record hyo-laryngeal
Outcome Measures: Kinematic analyses of hyo-laryngeal movements using image processing and
marking from video-recordings will quantify movement with stimulation.
The Healthy volunteers will be without cardiac, pulmonary, neurological,
otolaryngological, psychiatric or speech, swallowing and hearing problems as determined by
medical history and examination by a physician.
- History of Rheumatic fever, mitral valve prolapse, or cardiac arrhythmias as
determined by medical history, physical and EKG. A physician will auscultate for
cardiac murmurs prior to any study to exclude volunteers who might be at risk for
endocarditis. Subjects will have an EKG as part of the screening for participation
in the study.
- Pregnancy will exclude women from participation because the study involves radiation
- None of the Healthy volunteers will have a reduction in the range of vocal fold
movement during the nasoendoscopy that might suggest laryngeal paralysis or paresis,
joint abnormality or neoplasm.
- Healthy Volunteers who have a cardiac demand pacemaker, dementia, exhibit non-stop
vocalization, significant reflux due to use of a feeding tube, or drug toxicity will
not be included for VitalStim, as these are contraindications to use of the device.