Functional organization of the trigeminal motor system in man. A neurophysiological study

G. Cruccu, A. Berardelli, M. Inghilleri, M. Manfredi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transcranial stimulation (TCS) in intact human subjects was used to investigate the corticobulbar projections and the functional organization of the trigeminal motor system. Both electrical (with the anode overlying the face area of the motor cortex) and magnetic TCS (with the coil at the vertex) excite the upper motoneurons projecting to the trigeminal motor nucleus, evoking motor potentials (C-MEPs) in the jaw-closing and suprahyoid muscles, but only during voluntary contraction. At least 30% of jaw-closing motoneurons are reached by direct fast-conducting corticobulbar fibres; these projections are mainly crossed. Suprahyoid motoneurons are also reached by fast-conducting corticobulbar fibres; these projections are probably bilateral. In the masseter, electrical TCS also evokes an ipsilateral motor response (R-MEP) followed by a later wave (U), and bilateral inhibitory periods. The R-MEP is secondary to excitation of the motor trigeminal root; the U wave probably results from the simultaneous excitation of Ia afferents in the root and ipsilaterally projecting corticofugal fibres; the inhibitory periods are largely due to activation of exteroceptive afferents in the root. Magnetic TCS, avoiding spread of current to the trigemintal root, evokes C-MEPs but not R-MEPs or U waves. The masseter inhibitory period after magnetic TCS may be due to excitation of corticofugal inhibitory fibres and to mechanical activation of Golgi tendon organs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1350
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Mathematics(all)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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