Reciprocal cortical activation patterns during incisal and molar biting correlated with bite force levels: an fMRI study

Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 10;9(1):8419. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44846-4.


In humans, the incisors and molars have distinct functions during mastication, analogous to the two main types of handgrip, the precision and power grips. In the present study, we investigated cortical activation and masticatory muscle activity during incisal and molar biting via simultaneous functional magnetic resonance imaging and electromyogram (EMG) recordings. We conducted recordings in 15 healthy adult participants while they performed incisal and molar biting tasks at three step-wise force levels using two custom-made splints. Regarding the results of the ROI analysis, we found a significantly stronger positive linear correlation between the blood oxygenation level dependent signal and EMG activity during molar biting than incisal biting, which was particularly prominent in the primary sensorimotor cortex and the cerebellum. We also found a significantly stronger negative linear correlation during incisal biting than molar biting, which was particularly prominent in the rostral cingulate motor area, superior frontal gyrus, and caudate nucleus. These findings indicate that molar biting enables powerful chewing: brain activity in several brain areas related to motor function was increased with increasing bite force levels, while incisal biting enables fine motor control: brain activity in several brain areas related to motor control was increased with reduced bite force levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bite Force*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incisor / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Mastication / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Molar / physiology*