Oral and oropharyngeal perceptions of fluid viscosity across the age span

Christina H. Smith*, Jeri A. Logemann, Wesley Roth Burghardt, Steven G Zecker, Alfred W Rademaker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Research demonstrates that varying sensory input, including the characteristics of a bolus, changes swallow physiology. Altering the consistency of fluids is a common compensatory technique used in dysphagia management to facilitate change. However, it is not known what variations in viscosity can be perceived in the oral cavity or oropharynx or if age affects oral and oropharyngeal perceptions of fluid viscosity. This study aims to establish the ability of normal adults to perceive fluid viscosity in the oral cavity and oropharynx and to determine if, within this population, there are age-related changes in oral and oropharyngeal perceptions. Sensitivity was established by deriving the exponent for the psychophysical law for fluid viscosity in both the oral cavity and the oropharynx, using modulus-free magnitude estimation with Newtonian fluids of corn syrup and water. Sixty normal volunteers, aged 21-84 years, participated. Results indicate that the exponent for oral perception of fluid viscosity was 0.3298, while for oropharyngeal perception it was 0.3148. Viscosity perception deteriorates with increasing age. Men exhibited a more marked deterioration in sensitivity than women. This study contributes to the literature on oral and oropharyngeal perceptions and on aging. The results provide a basis for work with individuals with dysphagia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-217
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006


  • Age
  • Deglutition
  • Deglutition disorders
  • Dysphagia
  • Oral perception
  • Oropharyngeal perception
  • Swallowing
  • Viscosity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Speech and Hearing

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