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Phasic and tonic stretch reflexes in muscles with few muscle spindles: Human jaw-opener muscles

Phasic and tonic stretch reflexes in muscles with few muscle spindles: Human jaw-opener muscles

Experimental Brain Research 116(2): 299-308

We investigated phasic and tonic stretch reflexes in human jaw-opener muscles, which have few, if any, muscle spindles. Jaw-unloading reflexes were recorded for both opener and closer muscles. Surface electromyographic (EMG) activity was obtained from left and right digastric and superficial masseter muscles, and jaw orientation and torques were recorded. Unloading of jaw-opener muscles elicited a short-latency decrease in EMG activity (averaging 20 ms) followed by a short-duration silent period in these muscles and sometimes a short burst of activity in their antagonists. Similar behavior in response to unloading was observed for spindle-rich jaw-closer muscles, although the latency of the silent period was statistically shorter than that observed for jaw-opener muscles (averaging 13 ms). Control studies suggest that the jaw-opener reflex was not due to inputs from either cutaneous or periodontal mechanoreceptors. In the unloading response of the jaw openers, the tonic level of EMG activity observed after transition to the new jaw orientation was monotonically related to the residual torque and orientation. This is consistent with the idea that the tonic stretch reflex might mediate the change in muscle activation. In addition, the values of the static net joint torque and jaw orientation after the dynamic phase of unloading were related by a monotonic function resembling the invariant characteristic recorded in human limb joints. The torque-angle characteristics associated with different initial jaw orientations were similar in shape but spatially shifted, consistent with the idea that voluntary changes in jaw orientation might be associated with a change in a single parameter, which might be identified as the threshold of the tonic stretch reflex. It is suggested that functionally significant phasic and tonic stretch reflexes might not be mediated exclusively by muscle spindle afferents. Thus, the hypothesis that central modifications in the threshold of the tonic stretch reflex underlie the control of movement may be applied to the jaw system.

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Accession: 009184190

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PMID: 9348128

DOI: 10.1007/pl00005757

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