The pattern of respiratory movements of the vocal cords in relation to airflow and respiratory system resistance was assessed in healthy human volunteers during quiet breathing. Motion pictures of the vocal cords were obtained through a fiber-optic laryngoscope inserted transnasally under topical anesthesia. A simultaneous estimate of lung volume was obtained using either rib cage and abdominal magnetometer coils or an integrated pneumotachograph signal. The vocal cords separated during inspiration and moved closer together during the expiratory phase of each breath. The extent of these movements varied greatly among the subjects. Total respiratory system resistance, assessed by the forced oscillation technique, was negatively correlated with distance between the vocal cords when measured at isoflow points in inspiration and expiration. Analysis of breath-by-breath variations in expiratory airflow and vocal cord position revealed that decreases in airflow accompanied decreases in the distance between the vocal cords. The results of this study indicate that the human larynx participates in the regulation of respiratory airflow by providing a variable, controlled resistance.
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