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Unilateral Lingual Nerve Transection Alters Jaw-tongue Coordination During Mastication In Pigs.

S. Montuelle, R. Olson, Hannah Curtis, Susan H. Williams
Published 2020 · Medicine

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During chewing, movements and deformations of the tongue are coordinated with jaw movements to manage and manipulate the bolus and avoid injury. Individuals with injuries to the lingual nerve report both tongue injuries due to biting and difficulties in chewing, primarily because of impaired bolus management, suggesting that jaw-tongue coordination relies on intact lingual afferents. Here, we investigate how unilateral lingual nerve (LN) transection affects jaw-tongue coordination in an animal model (pig, Sus scrofa). Temporal coordination between jaw pitch (opening-closing) and 1) anteroposterior tongue position (i.e., protraction-retraction), 2) anteroposterior tongue length, and 3) mediolateral tongue width was compared between pre- and post-LN transection using cross correlation analyses. Overall, following LN transection, the lag between jaw pitch and the majority of tongue kinematics decreased significantly, demonstrating that sensory loss from the tongue alters jaw-tongue coordination. In addition, decrease in jaw-tongue lag suggests that, following LN transection, tongue movements and deformations occur earlier in the gape cycle than when the lingual sensory afferents are intact. If the velocity of tongue movements and deformations remains constant, earlier occurrence can reflect less pronounced movements, possibly to avoid injuries. The results of this study demonstrate that lingual afferents participate in chewing by assisting with coordinating the timing of jaw and tongue movements. The observed changes may affect bolus management performance and/or may represent protective strategies due to altered somatosensory awareness of the tongue.
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