1. We studied the properties of motoneurones and Ia-motoneuronal connections in the human trigeminal system, and their functional interactions with other brainstem reflex pathways mediated by non-muscular (Aβ) afferents. With surface EMG recordings we tested the recovery cycles of the heteronymous H-reflex in the temporalis muscle and the homonymous silent period in the masseter muscle both elicited by stimulation of the masseteric nerve at the infratemporal fossa in nine healthy subjects. In four subjects single motor-unit responses were recorded from the temporalis muscle. In six subjects we also tested the effect of the stimulus to the mental nerve on the temporalis H-reflex and, conversely, the effect of Ia input (stimulus to the masseteric nerve) on the R1 component of the blink reflex in the orbicularis oculi muscle. 2. The recovery cycle of the H-reflex showed a suppression peaking at the 5-20 ms interval; conversely the time course of the masseteric silent period was facilitated at comparable intervals. The inhibition of the test H-reflex was inversely related to the level of background voluntary contraction. Single motor units were unable to fire consistently in response to the test stimulus at intervals shorter than 50 ms. 3. Mental nerve stimulation strongly depressed the H-reflex. The time course of this inhibition coincided with the EMG inhibition elicited by mental nerve stimulation during voluntary contraction. The trigeminal Ia input facilitated the R1 component of the blink reflex when the supraorbital test stimulation preceded the masseteric conditioning stimulation by 2 ms. 4. We conclude that the time course of the recovery cycle of the heteronymous H-reflex in the temporalis muscle reflects the after-hyperpolarization potential (AHP) of trigeminal motoneurones, and that the Ia trigeminal input is integrated with other brainstem reflexes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas