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Physiol Behav. 2018 Mar 15;186:62-72. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.01.009. Epub 2018 Jan 16.

Differing structural properties of foods affect the development of mandibular control and muscle coordination in infants and young children.

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Department of Pediatrics, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, United States.
Nestlé Research Center, Switzerland.
Speech and Feeding Disorders Lab, MGH Institute of Health Professions, United States.
Nestlé Nutrition, Switzerland.
Speech and Feeding Disorders Lab, MGH Institute of Health Professions, United States. Electronic address:


The development of chewing is an essential motor skill that is continually refined throughout early childhood. From a motor control perspective, the advancement of textures is dependent upon the fit between a child's oral anatomic and motor system and food properties. The purpose of this exploratory study is to identify age-related changes in chewing motor coordination and control and to determine if these changes are associated with the differing structural properties of solid foods, as well as to explore the role of explanatory variables such as the emergence of teeth and bite force. The masticatory muscle coordination (i.e., coupling of synergistic and antagonistic muscle pairs) and control (i.e., speed, displacement, chewing rate, duration, and number of chews) of fifty children were assessed cross-sectionally at five ages: 9-, 12-, 18-, 24-, and 36-months using electromyography (EMG) and 3D optical motion capture while children ate three foods that had differing structural properties. The results of this study found that children made gains in their chewing motor control (decreased duration of chewing sequences and lateral jaw displacement) and coordination (improved jaw muscle coupling) throughout this period. The structural differences in foods also affected chewing performance at all ages. These preliminary findings suggest that some solid textures are better adapted for immature mandibular control than others and that the development of chewing is a protracted process that may be impacted by the emergence of teeth and changes to bite force.


Development; Electromyography; Food structure; Kinematics; Mastication

[Available on 2019-03-15]
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