Overdrinking, swallowing inhibition, and regional brain responses prior to swallowing

Pascal Saker, Michael J. Farrell, Gary F. Egan, Michael J. McKinley, Derek A. Denton

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26 Citations (Scopus)


In humans, drinking replenishes fluid loss and satiates the sensation of thirst that accompanies dehydration. Typically, the volume of water drunk in response to thirst matches the deficit. Exactly how this accurate metering is achieved is unknown; recent evidence implicates swallowing inhibition as a potential factor. Using fMRI, this study investigated whether swallowing inhibition is present after more water has been drunk than is necessary to restore fluid balance within the body. This proposal was tested using ratings of swallowing effort and measuring regional brain responses as participants prepared to swallow small volumes of liquid while they were thirsty and after they had overdrunk. Effort ratings provided unequivocal support for swallowing inhibition, with a threefold increase in effort after overdrinking, whereas addition of 8% (wt/vol) sucrose to water had minimal effect on effort before or after overdrinking. Regional brain responses when participants prepared to swallow showed increases in the motor cortex, prefrontal cortices, posterior parietal cortex, striatum, and thalamus after overdrinking, relative to thirst. Ratings of swallowing effort were correlated with activity in the right prefrontal cortex and pontine regions in the brainstem; no brain regions showed correlated activity with pleasantness ratings. These findings are all consistent with the presence of swallowing inhibition after excess water has been drunk. We conclude that swallowing inhibition is an important mechanism in the overall regulation of fluid intake in humans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12274-12279
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2016


  • Drinking
  • FMRI
  • Inhibition
  • Swallowing
  • Thirst

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