Effects of intra-oesophageal acid infusion and a stress task on masseter muscle activity and autonomic nervous activity in wakefulness

J Oral Rehabil. 2020 May;47(5):567-576. doi: 10.1111/joor.12947. Epub 2020 Feb 29.


Background: Gastroesophageal reflux disease may be an important risk factor for awake bruxism. Additionally, it has been known that a psychological stress task affects masseter muscle activity, and autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity modulation induces masseter muscle activity.

Objectives: This study aimed to investigate whether task-induced stress and experimental oesophageal acid infusion increase masseter muscle activity and alter ANS activity, compared to rest task and oesophageal saline infusion, respectively.

Methods: Polygraphic monitoring, consisting of electromyography of the masseter muscle and electrocardiography, was performed in 12 healthy adult men during 30-min interventions with intra-oesophageal saline or acid infusion, while reading a book quietly, as rest, and while performing calculation, as a stress task.

Results: At rest, masseter muscle activity and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity during acid infusion were significantly higher (P = .019) and lower (P = .021) than during saline infusion, respectively. During saline infusion, both masseter muscle activity and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity or PNS activity while performing the calculation task were higher (P = .022 and .012, respectively) or lower (P = .007) than those during the reading task, respectively. In two-way repeated-measures ANOVA, intra-oesophageal infusion (saline or acid) significantly affected masseter muscle activity (P = .008) and PNS activity (P = .021). However, performing tasks (reading or calculation) significantly affected only PNS activity (P = .028).

Conclusion: Intra-oesophageal acid infusion significantly increased masseter muscle activity and decreased PNS activity. In contrast, stress task not only significantly decreased PNS activity, but only modestly increased masseter muscle activity and SNS activity.

Keywords: acid infusion; awake bruxism; gastroesophageal reflux disease; parasympathetic nervous system; psychological stress; sympathetic nervous system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Masseter Muscle*
  • Wakefulness*