Modulation of the jaw jerk reflex by the sympathetic nervous system.

C. Grassi, F. Deriu, E. Artusio, M. Passatore


The effect of sympathetic stimulation on the jaw jerk reflex has been studied in precollicular decerebrate rabbits. This reflex was elicited by a downward mandibular movement applied to the lower jaw through a servo controlled puller. Unilateral stimulation of the cervical sympathetic nerve at 10/s consistently induced a decrease in the JJR, i.e. a marked reduction of the EMG activity in the ipsilateral masseter muscle, accompanied by a 30-40% decrease in the reflexly developed force. In these trials EMG of the contralateral muscle, recorded as control, was not significantly affected. Bilateral stimulation of cervical sympathetic nerve strongly reduced or suppressed the EMG activity in both sides and produced a parallel decrease in the developed force which reached values ranging from 12.5% to 37.0% of controls (with an average of 28.9% ± 8.9, S.D.). The effect of sympathetic stimulation was also tested on the contraction of the masseter muscle elicited by direct electrical stimulation. Sympathetic activation induced a modest increase in both amplitude and duration of muscle twitch, thus showing that the reduction in the reflex response can not be attributed to an action exerted by the adrenergic mediator on the muscular contraction. All these effects were almost completely abolished by the blockade of alpha-adrenergic receptors. They were proved not to be secondary to the sympathetically-induced vasomotor changes. Therefore the marked JJR reduction produced by activation of the sympathetic nervous system is suggested to be due to the sympathetically-induced decrease in neuromuscular spindle sensitivity to muscle length changes, previously reported.

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