Changes in rabbit jaw-muscle activity parameters in response to reduced masticatory load

T. Grünheid, P. Brugman, A. Zentner, G. E.J. Langenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Mechanical food properties influence the neuromuscular activity of jaw-closing muscles during mastication. It is, however, unknown how the activity profiles of the jaw muscles are influenced by long-term alterations in masticatory load. In order to elucidate the effect of reduced masticatory load on the daily habitual activity profiles of three functionally different jaw muscles, the electromyograms of the masseter, temporalis and digastric muscles were recorded telemetrically in 16 male rabbits between seven and 20 weeks of age. Starting at eight weeks of age the experimental animals were fed significantly softer pellets than the control animals. Daily muscle activity was quantified by the relative duration of muscle use (duty time), burst number and burst length in relation to multiple activity levels. The daily duty time and burst number of the masseter muscle were significantly lower in the experimental group than in the control group at 5% and 10% of the maximum activity during the two weeks following the change in food hardness. By contrast, altered food hardness did not significantly influence the activity characteristics of the temporalis and digastric muscles. The findings suggest that a reduction in masticatory load decreases the neuromuscular activity of the jaw-closing muscles that are primarily responsible for force generation during mastication. This decrease is most pronounced in the weeks immediately following the change in food hardness and is limited to the activity levels that reflect muscle contractions during chewing. These findings support the conclusion that the masticatory system manifests few dietspecific long-term changes in the activity profiles of jaw muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-781
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Activity burst
  • Adaptation
  • Duty time
  • Electromyography
  • Functional load


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