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J Neurophysiol. 1989 Jul;62(1):212-9.

Evidence that peaks in EMG averages can sometimes be caused by inhibition of motoneurons.

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Department of Oral Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


1. It has been reported that an excitatory response occurs before strong inhibition in masticatory muscles. We tested the hypothesis that this small monopolar wave in the EMG, called by us the early exteroceptive component (EEC), is in fact the first response to inhibition. 2. A mapping of the electrical activity of the masseter muscle was performed using a 3 x 4 matrix of surface electrodes with reference to the back of the neck. Subjects sat with the jaw closing muscles relaxed or contracting at approximately 75% of the maximum voluntary level. The chin was tapped to evoke a jaw jerk reflex and the EEC was elicited by electrical stimulation to the palate. 3. In addition, bipolar EMGs and jaw position were recorded at minimal bite forces and at contraction levels of 5, 10, 15, or 20 N. 4. Data were computer average, with and without rectification, for 32 stimuli. 5. The EEC [latency 12.1 +/- 1.0 (SD)ms] was found to have the same polarity, shape, and duration as the repolarizing wave of the stretch reflex. 6. After electrical stimulation, an increase of bite force was never observed during or immediately after the EEC. Instead, bite force began to decrease 5-7 ms after the onset of the EEC. 7. The amplitude of the EECs never exceeded the level of the peaks in the preceding background EMG, even when the left and right palatal electrodes were stimulated simultaneously at high intensity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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