A wide body of literature has demonstrated that the neural representation of healthy swallowing is mostly bilateral, with one hemisphere dominant over the other. While several studies have demonstrated the presence of laterality for swallowing related functions among young adults, the data on older adults are still growing. The purpose of this paper is to investigate potential changes in hemispheric dominance in healthy aging adults for swallowing related tasks using a behavioral dual-task paradigm. A modified dual-task paradigm was designed to investigate the potential reduction in hemispherical specialization for swallowing function. Eighty healthy right-handed participants in the study were divided into two groups [Group 1: young adults (18–40 years) and Group 2: older adults (65 and above)]. All the participants performed a timed water swallow test at baseline and with two interference conditions (silent word repetition, and facial recognition). The results of the study revealed the following 1) a statistically significant effect of age on swallow performance; 2) statistically significant effect of each of the interference tasks on two of the swallow measures (VPS and VPT) in younger adults; and 3) no significant effect of the interference tasks on the swallowing performance of older adults. These findings suggest that aging substantially affects swallowing in older individuals, and this potentially accompanies a reduction in the hemispheric specialization for swallowing related tasks.
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