Neurons of the dorsal nucleus reticularis pontis caudalis (nPontc) fire rhythmically during fictive mastication, while neurons of the ventral half tend to fire tonically (Westberg et al., 2001). This paper describes the changes in the pattern of rhythmical mastication elicited by stimulation of the sensorimotor cortex during inhibition or excitation of neurons in this nucleus and adjacent parts of nucleus reticularis gigantocellularis (Rgc) in the anaesthetized rabbit. Masticatory movements and electromyographic (EMG) activity of the masseter and digastric muscles produced by cortical stimulation were recorded before, during and after injections of a local anaesthetic (lidocaine) or excitatory amino acid N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) into nPontc and Rgc through a microsyringe with attached microelectrode to record neuronal activity. Lidocaine inhibited local neurons and modified the motor program, and the effects varied with the site of injection. Most injections into the ventral half of nPontc increased cycle duration, digastric burst duration and burst area. The action of lidocaine in dorsal nPontc was more variable, although burst duration and area were often decreased. The effects on the muscle activity were always bilateral. Lidocaine block of the rostromedial part of Rgc had no effect on movements or on EMGs. Injections of NMDA excited local neurons and when injected into ventral nPontc, it completely blocked mastication. Dorsal injections either had no effect or increased cycle frequency, while decreasing burst duration and area. No increases in EMG burst duration or area were observed with NMDA. Our findings suggest that neurons of ventral nPontc tonically inhibit other parts of the central pattern generator during mastication, while dorsal neurons have mixed effects. We incorporated these findings into a new model of the masticatory central pattern generator.