Deriu, Franca and Milia, Marcella and Sau, Gianfranco and Podda, Maria Vittoria and Ortu, Enzo and Chessa, Giacomo Innocenzo and Aiello, Isidoro Cesare Giuseppe and Tolu, Eusebio (2002) Non-nociceptive upper limb afferents modulate masseter muscle EMG activity in man. Experimental Brain Research, Vol. 143 (3), p. 286-294. eISSN 1432-1106. Article.
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Recent electrophysiological data obtained in anaesthetized rats evidenced jaw muscle excitatory responses to the electrical stimulation of type II limb somatosensory afferents. In the present work, we describe an inhibitory reflex evoked in human masseter muscles by stimulation of non-nociceptive fibres travelling in the median and radial nerves (MED and RAD, respectively). Eighteen healthy volunteers participated in the study. Subjects were seated on a comfortable chair, with the complex head-mandible-neck-trunk and the limbs securely fixed to the chair. Attempts were made to minimize possible interferences due to the activation of afferents other than the stimulated ones. The subjects were instructed to contract masseter muscles at a submaximal level and to maintain a stable level of muscle contraction during all trials. EMG voluntary activity was recorded from both masseter muscles by means of coaxial needle electrodes before and after the electrical stimulation of MED and/or RAD at intensities below pain threshold. In all subjects, MED stimulation induced bilaterally a marked depression of masseter EMG activity, which occurred at a latency of 23.6±2.1 ms and lasted 27.8±6.6 ms. RAD stimulation also induced a marked reduction in masseter EMG activity, but this effect was clearly observed in 9 out of 18 subjects, and it showed latency (30.2±7.5 ms) and duration (44.9±5.4 ms) significantly longer in comparison with the MED-induced effect. All subjects exhibited the inhibitory period in masseter EMG following the simultaneous stimulation of both nerves; this one appeared at a latency not significantly different (25.3±5.9 ms) and lasted much more (37.4±8.2 ms) than EMG depression evoked by MED stimulation. The duration of masseter muscle inhibition, induced by MED and/or RAD stimulation, was inversely related to the level of EMG activity, while latency was not related to it. Significant increases in the inhibitory period duration were also observed by increasing stimulus intensity, within a subthreshold range for the activation of nociceptive fibres. In all cases, the inhibitory period was followed by a later excitatory rebound activity, whose latency and duration depended on the duration of the preceding EMG inhibition and on the background level of masseter activation. In conclusion, results evidenced that the activation of arm somatosensory fibres modulates masseter muscle activity in normal man. This might lead to a coordination between limb and masticatory muscle activity, which is required in several complex motor acts.
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