Symmetry of mandibular muscle activity as an index of coordinative strategy

J Speech Hear Res. 1993 Dec;36(6):1145-57. doi: 10.1044/jshr.3606.1145.


Electromyographic activity of bilateral mandibular muscle pairs in humans was studied during several tasks: mastication, voluntary oscillation of the jaw, and speech production, as a replication and extension of an earlier investigation by Moore, Smith, and Ringel (1988). The synchrony of activity within and across these paired muscles (masseter, medial pterygoid, and the anterior belly of the digastric) was evaluated by statistical comparison of zero-lag cross-correlation coefficients between all possible pairs. Paired comparisons were classified and combined according to anatomical and biomechanical properties into comparisons of homologous pairs (e.g., synchrony of activity in right masseter with left masseter), ipsilateral synergists (e.g., right masseter with right medial pterygoid), contralateral synergists (e.g., right masseter with left medial pterygoid), ipsilateral antagonists (e.g., right masseter with right digastric), and contralateral antagonists (e.g., right masseter with left digastric). Statistical comparison of the coactivation within muscle groups (across tasks) and across these muscle groups (within tasks) revealed significantly different groups of coactivated groups for each of the three tasks studied. The grouping of these muscles into coactivated groups always included homologous pairs among those most synchronously active. During mastication, homologous pairs and ipsilateral synergists were coactivated to a degree significantly greater than either of the antagonistic groups or the contralateral synergists. During voluntary oscillation of the jaw, coactive muscle groups were shown to be primarily the homologous pairs; synergists were coactivated to a significantly lesser degree, and antagonistic muscles were reciprocally active. During speech production, only homologous pairs emerged as a highly coactive group, although synergists and antagonistic pairs were coactive to a lesser degree. This finding was interpreted as a further indication of the coordinative plasticity among mandibular muscles, and as a demonstration of the vast differences in the apparent coordinative strategies for speech and nonspeech tasks. Speculation regarding the root of these differences is focused on the differences in kinematic and force-generating requirements of each task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Jaw
  • Male
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology*
  • Masseter Muscle / physiology
  • Mastication / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles*
  • Pterygoid Muscles / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Speech / physiology
  • Speech Production Measurement