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How the brain coordinates eating

The act of swallowing is one of the most delicate and complex processes performed by the human body, even though we rarely offer it a second thought. Like many crucial processes, much of swallowing is an involuntary action.



This ensures that lubricated food is moved from our mouth to our stomach without getting stuck, coming out of our nose or blocking our windpipe.

The key control centre of swallowing is the brain stem, home of the medulla oblongata. This network is connected to a collection of cranial nerves that perform important functions, including sensing and controlling chewing, tasting, salivation and swallowing.

The cranial nerves report the location and texture of the food bolus to the brain stem as it moves from the mouth to the pharynx to oesophagus, triggering muscle contractions along the way.

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