Feeding behaviors require intricately coordinated activation among the muscles of the jaw, tongue, and face, but the neural anatomical substrates underlying such coordination remain unclear. Here we investigate whether the premotor circuitry of jaw and tongue motoneurons contain elements for coordination. Using a modified monosynaptic rabies virus based transsynaptic tracing strategy, we systematically mapped premotor neurons for the jaw-closing masseter muscle and the tongue-protruding genioglossus muscle. The maps revealed that the two groups of premotor neurons are distributed in regions implicated in rhythmogenesis, descending motor control, and sensory feedback. Importantly, we discovered several premotor connection configurations that are ideally suited for coordinating bilaterally symmetric jaw movements, and for enabling co-activation of specific jaw, tongue, and facial muscles. Our findings suggest that shared premotor neurons that form specific multi-target connections with selected motoneurons are a simple and general solution to the problem of orofacial coordination.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#A220-12-08) of Duke University. Duke University is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC).
- Peggy Mason, Reviewing Editor, University of Chicago, United States
© 2014, Stanek et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
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Why don't we bite our tongues when we chew?