Electrophysiology of Cranial Nerve Testing: Cranial Nerves IX and X

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The cranial nerves IX and X emerge from medulla oblongata and have motor, sensory, and parasympathetic functions. Some of these are amenable to neurophysiological assessment. It is often hard to separate the individual contribution of each nerve; in fact, some of the techniques are indeed a composite functional measure of both nerves. The main methods are the evaluation of the swallowing function (combined IX and X), laryngeal electromyogram (predominant motor vagal function), and heart rate variability (predominant parasympathetic vagal function). This review describes, therefore, the techniques that best evaluate the major symptoms presented in IX and X cranial nerve disturbance: dysphagia, dysphonia, and autonomic parasympathetic dysfunction.

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