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Temporalis Muscle: Action, Innervation & Origin

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition and Anatomy courses for several years. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Furman University and a M.S. in Dietetics & Nutrition from Florida International University. He is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)

The temporalis muscle is a muscle that is located at the side of the head/skull at each of the temples. In this lesson, learn about the action, innervation, and origin of the temporalis muscle.

Temporalis Muscle

Put your fingers on your temples. Now bite down on your teeth. Did you feel a muscle flex outward from your temples? That muscle is the temporalis muscle, which is a fan-shaped muscle that impacts the movement and action of the lower jaw.


The temporalis muscle is a fan-shaped muscle located near each of the temples.
temporalis muscle


Temporalis Muscle: Action

The temporalis muscle functions to move the mandible, which is the official term for the lower jaw. Specifically, the movements of the lower jaw caused by the temporalis muscle include:

  • Elevation
  • Retraction
  • Side-to-side

Based on these movements, the temporalis muscle plays a large role in biting and chewing food. As a person opens their mouth and then bites down on a piece of food, the temporalis muscle contracts, causing the lower jaw to elevate and the jaws to close down. Once the piece of food is in the mouth, the temporalis muscle then contracts repeatedly to move the lower jaw up, backward, and side-to-side which allows the jaws to chew and grind the food with the teeth.


The actions of the temporalis muscle allows a person to bite and chew food.
biting food


Temporalis Muscle: Innervation

Innervation is the process of the brain sending electrical impulses to the muscles of the body through a network of nerves. Each muscle in the body receives electrical impulses from a specific nerve. The temporalis muscle receives electrical impulses from the brain through the cranial nerve V, which is also known as the trigeminal nerve.

The trigeminal nerve has three main branches:

  • Mandibular branch
  • Maxillary branch
  • Ophthalmic branch

The mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve is the specific branch that innervates the temporalis muscle.


The temporalis muscle is innervated by the cranial nerve V, which is also known as the trigeminal nerve.
trigeminal nerve


Temporalis Muscle: Origin

The temporalis muscle originates from the temporal fossa and the temporal fascia. The temporal fossa is the depressed or indented area of the temporal bone, and the temporal fascia is the tendinous connective tissue that is located just beneath the skin over the temporal bone. The muscle fibers from these two locations then mesh together and travel down the side of the face and attach to the mandible.


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