Functional compartmentalization of the human superficial masseter muscle

Rodrigo A. Guzmán-Venegas, Jorge L.Biotti Picand, Francisco J.Berral De La Rosa

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15 Scopus citations


Some muscles have demonstrated a differential recruitment of their motor units in relation to their location and the nature of the motor task performed; this involves functional compartmentalization. There is little evidence that demonstrates the presence of a compartmentalization of the superficial masseter muscle during biting. The aim of this study was to describe the topographic distribution of the activity of the superficial masseter (SM) muscle's motor units using high-density surface electromyography (EMGs) at different bite force levels. Twenty healthy natural dentate participants (men: 4; women: 16; age 20±2 years; mass: 60±12 kg, height: 163±7 cm) were selected from 316 volunteers and included in this study. Using a gnathodynamometer, bites from 20 to 100% maximum voluntary bite force (MVBF) were randomly requested. Using a two-dimensional grid (four columns, six electrodes) located on the dominant SM, EMGs in the anterior, middle-anterior, middle-posterior and posterior portions were simultaneously recorded. In bite ranges from 20 to 60% MVBF, the EMG activity was higher in the anterior than in the posterior portion (p-value = 0.001). The center of mass of the EMG activity was displaced towards the posterior part when bite force increased (p-value = 0.001). The topographic distribution of EMGs was more homogeneous at high levels of MVBF (p-value = 0.001). The results of this study show that the superficial masseter is organized into three functional compartments: an anterior, a middle and a posterior compartment. However, this compartmentalization is only seen at low levels of bite force (20-60% MVBF).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0116923
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2015

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Copyright: © 2015 Guzmán-Venegas et al.


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