Electromyographic recordings (EMGs) were made in 10 human subjects from the anterior and posterior parts of the temporalis muscle using skin surface electrodes. The activities produced by voluntary maximal clenching tasks and the reflex responses to electrical stimulation of the muco-gingival junction were studied. In most subjects, maximum activity in both parts of the muscle occurred when clenching in the intercuspal position (anterior temporalis: 7 of 10 subjects; posterior temporalis: 9 of 10 subjects). Clenching maximally in the retruded position usually resulted in less activity; when this activity was expressed as a percentage of the maximum achieved by each subject for that part of the muscle, the median values were: anterior temporalis, 68% and posterior temporalis, 79%. Clenching in the protruded position produced little or no activity (median values: anterior temporalis, 3%; posterior temporalis, 5%). There were no significant differences between the EMG activities of the anterior and posterior parts of the muscle during these tasks when the activities were normalized to the maximum achieved in each part of the muscle. Application of electrical stimuli at the muco-gingival junction (upper incisor region) produced reflex inhibitions and excitations in both parts of the muscle. There were no significant differences in the thresholds of these reflexes between the anterior and posterior parts of the muscle. Furthermore, there was little difference between the two parts of the muscle in terms of the latencies, durations and magnitudes of the responses. Thus the results of the study suggest that there are similar neural control mechanisms for the anterior and posterior parts of the temporalis muscle despite the common view that these parts of the muscle have different functions.