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Sensorimotor trigeminal unbalance modulates pupil size

Vincenzo De Cicco, Enrico Cataldo, Massimo Barresi, Vincenzo Parisi, Diego Manzoni


In order to verify the possible existence of a tonic trigeminal control on autonomic centres, we studied whether patients affected by Temporo-Mandibular Disorder (TMD), showing asymmetric electromyographic (EMG) activity of masticatory muscles also display asymmetries in pupil size.  In 30 pain free TMD patients a highly significant, positive correlation was found between left-right differences in EMG and pupil size. The asymmetry in pupil size was induced by the asymmetric sensorimotor signals arising from the orofacial region, since pupils became of about the same size following orthotic correction, which greatly reduced the EMG asymmetry. Moreover, bite wearing bilaterally increased the mydriasis induced by performing haptic tasks. Finally, unbalancing the occlusion by a precontact increased the diameter of the ipsilateral pupil and abolished the mydriasis induced by haptic tasks. In conclusion, trigeminal sensorimotor signals may exert a tonic control on autonomic structures regulating pupil size at rest and during sensorimotor tasks. Since task-associated mydriasis is correlated with task performance and is strictly proportional to the phasic release of noradrenaline at cerebral cortical level, the present findings may suggest an impact of unbalanced trigeminal activity on brain processing not directly related to the orofacial region.


Elevator muscles; occlusion; proprioceptive trigeminal signals; autonomic control; pupil size; Locus Coeruleus

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