Jaw Elevator Muscle Coordination during Rhythmic Mastication in Primates: Are Triplets Units of Motor Control?

Brain Behav Evol. 2020;95(1):1-14. doi: 10.1159/000503890. Epub 2019 Dec 10.


The activity of mammal jaw elevator muscles during chewing has often been described using the concept of the triplet motor pattern, in which triplet I (balancing side superficial masseter and medial pterygoid; working side posterior temporalis) is consistently activated before triplet II (working side superficial masseter and medial pterygoid; balancing side posterior temporalis), and each triplet of muscles is recruited and modulated as a unit. Here, new measures of unison, synchrony, and coordination are used to determine whether in 5 primate species (Propithecus verreauxi, Eulemur fulvus, Papio anubis, Macaca fuscata,and Pan troglodytes)muscles in the same triplet are active more in unison, are more synchronized, and are more highly coordinated than muscles in different triplets. Results show that triplet I muscle pairs are active more in unison than other muscle pairs in Eulemur, Macaca, and Papio,buttriplet muscle pairs are mostly not more tightly synchronized than non-triplet pairs. Triplet muscles are more coordinated during triplet pattern cycles than non-triplet cycles, while non-triplet muscle pairs are more coordinated during non-triplet cycles than triplet cycles. These results suggest that the central nervous system alters patterns of coordination between cycles, recruiting triplet muscles as a coordinated unit during triplet cycles but employing a different pattern of muscle coordination during non-triplet cycles. The triplet motor pattern may simplify modulation of rhythmic mastication by being one possible unit of coordination that can be recruited on a cycle-to-cycle basis.

Keywords: Chewing; Coordination; Relative phase; Synchrony; Unison.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Indriidae
  • Lemuridae
  • Macaca fuscata
  • Masseter Muscle / physiology*
  • Mastication / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Papio anubis
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Pterygoid Muscles / physiology*
  • Temporal Muscle / physiology*
  • Time Factors

Supplementary concepts

  • Eulemur fulvus
  • Propithecus verreauxi