The activity of jaw muscle receptors was studied by recording neurons in the mesencephalic nucleus of the trigeminal nerve in monkeys trained to control the position and movement of their mandible. Jaw position was measured by a weighted lever resting on the mandibular incisors. The force required to maintain the position of the lever was varied; in most cases it was either 25 or 360 g. Firing rates of neurons were related to stationary mandibular positions and to the velocity of movements during intervals when the movement velocity was constant. Of 49 neurons studied in detail, 21 fired at rates that were consistently and linearly related to static incisal openings. This static position sensitivity was typically about 5 spikes/mm of incisal opening. Most position-sensitive neurons fired at high rates during opening movements and at lower rates during closing movements than would be accounted for by their position sensitivity. This sensitivity to the velocity of movement was not linear, however; slow closing movements sometimes did not produce a decrease in firing rate, and an actual increase during muscle shortening was seen in a few instances. The position sensitivity of eight neurons was evaluated during different loading conditions; in no case did it change substantially. Of the remaining 28 neurons, 26 fired at higher rates during all opening movements and either stopped firing or fired at low, sporadic rates during closing movements. The static position sensitivity of these neurons was weak and variable both within and between neurons. The velocity sensitivity of these stretch-sensitive neurons was very non-linear. Except for a range of slow movements (± 5 mm/s), the firing rate was maximal (200 spikes/s or higher) for most opening movements and zero for most closing movements. Maximal firing rates were higher when the loads being moved were increased from 25 to 360 g. The majority of position-sensitive neurons exhibited a large interspike-interval variability at wide incisal opening. In most of these neurons, this interspike-interval variability was periodic, usually at a rate of about 10 periods/s, and took the form of 'saw-tooth' modulation on a record of instantaneous firing rate. Neurons that exhibited this modulation in a very prominent form also exhibited, in many instances, a substantial increase in firing rate during closing jaw movements.
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