Effect of sympathetic nervous system activation on the tonic vibration reflex in rabbit jaw closing muscles

C. Grassi, F. Deriu, M. Passatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. In precollicular decerebrate rabbits we investigated the effect of sympathetic stimulation, at frequencies within the physiological range, on the tonic vibration reflex (TVR) elicited in jaw closing muscles by small amplitude vibrations applied to the mandible (15-50 μm, 150-180 Hz). The EMG activity was recorded bilaterally from masseter muscle and the force developed by the reflex was measured through an isometric transducer connected with the mandibular symphysis. 2. Unilateral stimulation of the peripheral stump of the cervical sympathetic nerve (CSN) consistently elicited a 30-45% reduction of the tension developed by the TVR, and a marked decrease or disappearance of the ipsilateral EMG activity. No significant changes were detected in the EMG contralateral to the stimulated nerve. Bilateral CSN stimulation reduced by 60-90% the force reflexly produced by the jaw closing muscles and strongly decreased or suppressed EMG activity on both sides. This effect was often preceded by a transient TVR enhancement, very variable in amplitude and duration, which was concomitant with the modest increase in pulmonary ventilation induced by the sympathetic stimulation. 3. During bilateral CSN stimulation, an increase in the vibration amplitude by a factor of 1.5-2.5 was sufficient to restore the TVR reduced by sympathetic stimulation. 4. The depressant action exerted by sympathetic activation on the TVR is mediated by x-adrenergic receptors, since it was almost completely abolished by the I.V. administration of either phentolamine or prazosin, this last drug being a selective antagonist of α1-adrenoceptors. The sympathetically induced decrease in the TVR was not mimicked by manoeuvres producing a large and sudden reduction or abolition of the blood flow to jaw muscles, such as unilateral or bilateral occlusion of the common carotid artery. 5. The effect of sympathetic stimulation was not significantly modified after denervation of the inferior dental arch and/or anaesthesia of the temporomandibular joint, i.e. after having reduced the afferent input from those receptors, potentially affected by CSN stimulation, which can elicit either a jaw opening reflex or a decrease in the activity of the jaw elevator muscle motoneurons. 6. These data suggest that, when the sympathetic nervous system is activated under physiological conditions, there is a marked depression of the stretch reflex which is independent of vasomotor changes and is probably due to a decrease in sensitivity of muscle spindle afferents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-613
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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