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Arch Oral Biol. 2001 Sep;46(9):811-20.

A longitudinal electromyographic study of the postnatal maturation of mastication in the rabbit.

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Department of Functional Anatomy, Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


At 2 weeks of age, infant rabbits show chewing movements that resemble those of the adult animal. Previous studies have shown that, at that stage, the accompanying masticatory motor pattern is clearly similar to the suckling motor pattern. As early as 4 weeks, chewing muscle activity is indistinguishable from the adult chewing motor pattern. These reports suggest that the adult chewing motor pattern is developed from the suckling motor pattern. In this study, the chewing motor pattern in the intermediate period (between 2 and 4 weeks of age) was investigated by means of fine-wire electromyography and jaw tracking. Maturation of masticatory movements was found to have two phases. Maximum gape increased in the first few days and was followed by strong development of transverse jaw excursions after the age of 17 days. The increase in jaw excursions was brought about by changes in motor behaviour and facilitated by the development of smooth occlusal surfaces. The changes in motor behaviour were: (1) the level of activity of the balancing-side muscles became more equal to that of the working side; (2) the timing of digastric muscle activity became asymmetrical at the age of 17 days; (3) the peak activity of masseter, temporalis, medial pterygoid and lateral pterygoid muscle portions was gradually shifted or prolonged into the power-stroke phase. It can be concluded that the masticatory contraction pattern shifts from one derived from the suckling contraction pattern at the age of 14 days to one almost similar to the adult chewing pattern at the age of 23 days.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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