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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2005 Jul 28;147(2-3):177-89. Epub 2005 Apr 19.

Coordination of cranial motoneurons during mastication.

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Division of Oral Physiology, Department of Oral Biological Science, Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, 2-5274 Gakkocho-dori, Niigata 951-8514, Japan.


Mastication is the first stage of digestion and involves several motor processes such as food intake, intra-oral food transport, bolus formation and chewing in its broad sense. These complicated motor functions can be accomplished by the well-coordinated activities in various cranial motoneurons innervating the jaw, hyoid, tongue and facial muscles. The brainstem masticatory central pattern generator (CPG) plays a crucial role in generating basic activity patterns of these cranial motoneuron groups. However, descending inputs from higher brain (e.g., cerebral cortex) and mastication-generated peripheral sensory inputs also play important roles in modulating the activity pattern of each motoneuron so that the final motor outputs fit the environmental demand. In this review, we focus on the coordination of the trigeminal, facial and hypoglossal motoneurons during mastication. We first summarize findings showing the activity patterns of muscles innervated by these motoneurons during natural mastication, and then discuss the possible neural mechanisms underlying their coordinated activities during mastication.

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