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The central projections of the laryngeal nerves in the rat

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen McHanwell


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The larynx serves respiratory, protective, and phonatory functions. The motor and sensory innervation to the larynx controlling these functions is provided by the superior laryngeal nerve (SLN) and the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN). Classical studies state that the SLN innervates the cricothyroid muscle and provides sensory innervation to the supraglottic cavity, whereas the RLN supplies motor innervation to the remaining intrinsic laryngeal muscles and sensory innervation to the infraglottic cavity, but recent data suggest a more complex anatomical and functional organisation. The current neuroanatomical tracing study was undertaken to provide a comprehensive description of the central brainstem connections of the axons within the SLN and the RLN, including those neurons that innervate the larynx. The study has been carried out in 41 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. The central projections of the laryngeal nerves were labelled following application of biotinylated dextran amines onto the SLN, the RLN or both. The most remarkable result of the study is that in the rat the RLN does not contain any afferent axons from the larynx, in contrast to the pattern observed in many other species including man. The RLN supplied only special visceromotor innervation to the intrinsic muscles of the larynx from motoneurons in the nucleus ambiguus (Amb). All the afferent axons innervating the larynx are contained within the SLN, and reach the nucleus of the solitary tract. The SLN also contained secretomotor efferents originating from motoneurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, and special visceral efferent fibres from the Amb. In conclusion, the present study shows that in the rat the innervation of the larynx differs in significant ways from that described in other species.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pascual-Font A, Hernandez-Morato I, McHanwell S, Vazquez T, Maranillo E, Sanudo J, Valderrama-Canales FJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Anatomy

Year: 2011

Volume: 219

Issue: 2

Pages: 217-228

Print publication date: 22/05/2011

ISSN (print): 0021-8782

ISSN (electronic): 1469-7580

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2011.01390.x


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Funder referenceFunder name
UCM920547 group
06-276Spanish Health Ministry