, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 289-322

Temporalis and masseter muscle function during incision in macaques and humans

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Most previously published electromyographic (EMG) studies have indicated that the temporalis muscles in humans become almost electrically quiet during incisai biting. These data have led various workers to conclude that these muscles may contribute little to the incisai bite force. The feeding behavior and comparative anatomy of the incisors and temporalis muscles of certain catarrhine primates, however, suggest that the temporalis muscle is an important and powerful contributor to the bite force during incision. One purpose of this study is to analyze the EMG activity of the masseter and temporalis muscles in both humans and macaques with the intention of focusing on the conflict between published EMG data on humans and inferences of muscle function based on the comparative anatomy and behavior of catarrhine primates. The EMG data collected from humans in the present study indicate that, in five of seven subjects, the masseter,anterior temporalis, and posterior temporalis muscles are very active during apple incision (i.e., relative to EMG activity levels during apple and almond mastication). In the other two human subjects the EMG levels of these muscles are lower during incision than during mastication, but in no instance are these muscles ever close to becoming electrically quiet. The EMG data on macaques indicate that, in all six subjects, the masseter, anterior temporalis, and posterior temporalis muscles are very active during incision. These data are in general agreement with inferences on muscle function that have been drawn from the comparative anatomy and behavior of primates, but they do not agree with previous experimental data. The reason for this disagreement is probably due to differences in the experimental procedure. In previous studies subjects simply bit isometrically on their incisors and the resulting EMG pattern was compared to the pattern associated with powerful clenching in centric occlusion. In the present study the subjects incised into actual food objects, and the resulting EMG pattern was compared to the pattern associated with mastication of various foods. It is not surprising that these two procedures result in markedly different EMG patterns, which in turn result in markedly different interpretations of jaw-muscle function. In an attempt to explain the evolution of the postorbital septum in anthropoids, it has been suggested that the anterior temporalis is more active than the masseter during incision (Cachel, 1979). The human and macaque EMG data do not support this hypothesis; during incision, the two muscles show no consistent differences in humans and the masseter appears to be in fact more active than the anterior temporalis in macaques.