Nerves of the Human Body

Nerve(s)/Nerve Branches
Structures Innervated
Abdominopelvic splanchnic
Lower thoracic and
lumbar segments
sympathetic trunk
Pass medially and inferiorly to pre-
of vertebral ganglion of paraaortic plexus
Motor: presynaptic sympathetics for innervation of abdominopelvic blood vessels and viscera
Abducent (CN VI)
Become intradural on clivus; traverse
cavernous sinus and superior orbital
fissure to enter orbit
Motor: lateral rectus
Accessory (CN XI)
Cranial root: medulla
Spinal root: cervical
spinal cord
Spinal root ascends into cranial cavity
through foramen magnum, exits
through jugular foramen, traverses
posterior triangle of neck
Motor: sternocleidomastoid and trapezius
Ansa cervicalis
Superior root: hypoglossal
nerve (C1–C2 fibers)
Inferior root: cervical
plexus (C2–C3 fibers)
Descends on external surface of
carotid sheath and sternothyroid
Motor: omohyoid, sternohyoid,
Anterior ethmoidal
Nasociliary nerve (CN V1)
Arises in orbit, passes through anterior
ethmoidal foramen to cranial cavity, then
through cribriform plate of ethmoid to
nasal cavity
Sensory: dural of anterior cranial fossa; mucous membranes of sphenoidal sinus, ethmoidal cells, and upper nasal cavity
Anterior femoral cutaneous
Femoral nerve (L2–L3
Arise in femoral triangle and pierce fascia
lata of thigh along path of sartorius muscle
Sensory: skin on medial and anterior aspects of thigh
Anterior interosseous
Median nerve in distal
part of cubital fossa
Passes inferiorly on interosseous
Motor: flexor digitorum profundus, flexor pollicis longus, and pronator quadratus
Mandibular nerve (CN V3)
From posterior division of CN V3, it
passes between neck of mandible and
external acoustic meatus to accompany
superficial temporal artery
Sensory: skin anterior to auricle and posterior temporal region, tragus and part of helix of auricle, and roof of exterior acoustic meatus and upper tympanic membrane
Terminal branch of
posterior cord of
brachial plexus
(C5–C6 fibers)
Passes to posterior aspect of arm
through quadrangular space in
company with posterior circumflex
humeral artery and then winds around
surgical neck of humerus; gives rise to
lateral brachialcutaneous nerve
Motor: teres minor and deltoid
Sensory: shoulder joint and skin over inferior part of deltoid
Mandibular nerve (CN V3)
From the anterior division of CN V3 in
infratemporal fossa, it passes anteriorly
to reach cheek
Sensory: skin and mucosa of cheek, buccal gingiva adjacent to 2nd and 3rd molar teeth
Calcaneal branches
Tibial and sural nerves
of leg to skin on heel
Pass from distal part of posterior aspect
Sensory: skin of heel
Cardiac plexus
Cervical and cardiac
branches of vagus nerve
and cardiopulmonary
splanchnic nerves from
sympathetic trunk
From arch of aorta and posterior surface
of heart, fibers extend along coronary
arteries and to sinoatrial node
Sinoatrial nodal tissue and coronary arteries; parasympathetic fibers slow rate, reduce force of heartbeat, and constrict arteries; sympathetic fibers have opposite effect
Cardiopulmonary splanchnic
Cervical and upper thoracic
ganglia of sympathetic
Descend anteromedially to cardiac,
pulmonary, and esophageal plexuses
Motor: convey postsynaptic sympathetic fibers to nerve plexuses of thoracic viscera
Cavernous nerves of penis and clitoris
Parasympathetic fibers of
prostatic nerve plexus
Perforates perineal membrane to reach
erectile bodies of penis
Motor: helicine arteries of cavernous bodies; stimulation produces engorgement at arterial pressure (erection)
Cervical splanchnic
Cervical ganglia of sympa-
thetic trunk
Pass medially and inferiorly to cardiac
and pulmonary plexuses
Conducting tissue (sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes) and coronary arteries
Chorda tympani
Facial nerve (CN VII) within
facial canal
Traverses tympanic cavity, passing
between incus and malleus; exits
temporal bone through petrotympanic
fissure to enter infratemporal fossa
where it merges with lingual nerve
Motor: submandibular and sublingual (salivary) glands
Sensory: taste sensation from anterior two thirds of tongue
Ciliary (long, short)
Long ciliary: nasociliary
nerve (CN V1)
Pass to posterior aspect of eyeball
Short ciliary: ciliary ganglion
Sensory: cornea, conjunctiva
Motor: ciliary body and iris
Cluneal (superior, middle,
and inferior)
Superior: posterior rami of L1, L2, and L3
Middle: posterior rami of
S1, S2, and S3
Inferior: posterior cutaneous nerve of thigh
Superior nerves cross iliac crest; middle nerves exit through posterior sacral foramina and enter gluteal region; inferior nerves curve around inferior border of gluteus maximus
Sensory: skin of buttock or gluteal region as far as greater trochanter
Conus medullaris of
spinal cord
Anterior and posterior rami join adjacent rami of S4 and S5; anterior rami form coccygeal plexus, which gives rise to anococcygeal nerve
Sensory: skin over coccyx
Cochlear nerve
As a division of the
vestibulocochlear nerve e
Traverses internal acoustic meatus, ntering modiolus with spiral ganglia and peripheral processes in spiral lamina
Sensory: spiral organ (for hearing)
Common fibular (peroneal)
Terminal branch (with
tibialnerve) of sciatic
nerve (L4–S2 fibers)
Begins at apex of popliteal fossa; follows medial border of biceps femoris muscle to posterior aspect of head of fibula; bifurcates into superficial and deep fibular nerves as it winds around neck of fibula
Sensory: skin on lateral part of posterior aspect of leg through its branch, lateral sural cutaneous nerve; knee joint through its articular branch Motor: short head of biceps femoris
Common palmar digital
Median and superficial
branches of ulnar nerves
Run distally between long flexor tendons of palm, bifurcating in distal palm
Branches: proper palmar digital nerves, supplying skin and joints of palmar and distal dorsal aspect of fingers
Common plantar digital
Median and lateral plantar nerves
Run anteriorly in sole of foot between flexor tendons, bifurcating in distal sole
Branches: proper plantar digital nerves, supplying skin and joints of plantar and distal dorsal aspect of toes
Deep branch of radial nerve
Radial nerve just distal to
Winds around neck of radius in supinator; enters posterior compartment of forearm becoming posterior interosseous nerve
Motor: extensor carpi radialis brevis and supinator
Deep branch of ulnar nerve
Ulnar nerve at wrist as it passes between pisiform and hamate bones
(T1 fibers)
Passes deep between muscles of hypothenar eminence, then across palm with deep palmar (arterial) arch
Motor: hypothenar muscles (abductor, flexor, and opponens digiti minimi), lumbricals of 4th and 5th digits, all interossei, adductor pollicis, and deep head of flexor pollicis brevis
Deep fibular (peroneal)
Common fibular (peroneal) nerve
Arises between fibularis longus and neck of fibula; passes through extensor digitorum longus and descends on interosseous membrane; passes deep to extensor retinaculum, crosses distal end of tibia, and enters dorsum of foot
Motor: muscles of anterior compartment of leg and dorsum of foot
Sensory: skin of 1st interdigital cleft (i.e., skin on adjacent sides of 1st and 2nd toes); sends articular branches to joints it crosses
Deep petrosal
Internal carotid plexus
Traverses cartilage of foramen lacerum to join greater petrosal nerve at entrance to pterygoid canal
Conveys the postsynaptic sympathetic fibers destined for lacrimal gland and mucosa of nasal cavity, palate, and upper pharynx
Deep temporal
Mandibular nerve (CN V3)
Ascend temporal fossa deep to temporalis muscle
Motor: temporalis
Sensory: periosteum of temporal fossa
Dorsal branch of ulnar nerve
Ulnar nerve about 5 cm proximal to flexor retinaculum
Passes distally deep to flexor carpi ulnaris, then dorsally to perforate deep fascia and course along medial side of dorsum of hand, dividing into 2 to 3 dorsal digital nerves
Sensory: skin of medial aspect of dorsum of hand and proximal portions of 5th and medial half of 4th digit (occasionally also adjacent sides of proximal portions of 4th and 3rd fingers)
Dorsal scapular
Anterior ramus of C5 with frequent contribution from C4
Pierces scalenus medius, descends deep to levator scapulae, and enters deep surface of rhomboids
Motor: rhomboids; occasionally supplies levator scapulae
Esophageal plexus
Vagus nerve, sympathetic ganglia, greater splanchnic nerve
Distal to tracheal bifurcation, vagus and sympathetic nerves form a plexus around esophagus
Vagal (parasympathetic) and sympathetic fibers to smooth muscle and glands of inferior two thirds of esophagus
External nasal
Anterior ethmoidal nerve
(CN V1)
Runs in nasal cavity and emerges on face between nasal bone and lateral nasal
Sensory: skin on dorsum of nose, including tip of nose cartilage
Facial (CN VII)
Posterior border of pons
Runs through internal acoustic meatus
and facial canal of petrous part of
temporal bone, exiting through
stylomastoid foramen; main trunk forms
intraparotid plexus
Motor: stapedius, posterior belly of digastric, stylohyoid, facial, and scalp muscles
Sensory: some skin of external acoustic meatus
SEE ALSO intermediate nerve
Lumbar plexus (L2–L4
Passes deep to midpoint of inguinal
ligament, lateral to femoral vessels, and
divides into muscular and cutaneous
Motor: anterior thigh muscles
Sensory: hip and knee joints; skin on anteromedial side of thigh and leg
Ophthalmic nerve (CN V1)
Crosses orbit on superior aspect of levator
palpebrae superioris; divides into
supraorbital and supratrochlear branches
Sensory: skin of forehead, scalp, upper eyelid, and nose; conjunctiva of upper lid and mucosa of frontal sinus
Lumbar plexus (L1–L2
Descends on anterior surface of psoas
major and divides into genital and femoral
Sensory: femoral branch supplies skin over femoral triangle; genital branch supplies scrotum or labia majora Motor: genital branch to cremaster muscle
Glossopharyngeal (CN IX)
Glossopharyngeal (CN IX)
Exits cranium through jugular foramen,
passes between superior and middle
constrictors of pharynx to tonsillar fossa;
enters posterior third of tongue
Motor: somatic to stylopharyngeus; visceral (presynaptic parasympathetic) to parotid gland
Sensory: posterior two thirds of tongue (including taste), pharynx, tympanic cavity, auditory tube, carotid body, and sinus
Great auricular
Cervical plexus (C2–C3
Ascends vertically over sterno,
cleidomastoidanterior and parallel to
external jugular vein
Sensory: skin of auricle, adjacent scalp, and over angle of jaw; parotid sheath
Greater occipital
As medial branch of posterior
ramus of spinal nerve C2
Pierces deep muscles of neck and
trapezius to ascend posterior scalp
to vertex
Motor: multifidus cervicis, semispinalis capitis
Sensory: posterior scalp
Greater palatine
Branch of pterygopalatine
ganglion (maxillary nerve)
Passes inferiorly through greater palatine
canal and foramen
Motor: postsynaptic parasympathetics to palatine glands
Sensory: mucosa of hard palate
Greater petrosal
Genu of facial nerve (CN VII)
Exits facial canal through hiatus for
greater petrosal nerve; courses across to
tegmen tympani and passes through
cartilage of foramen lacerum to join
deep petrosal nerve at opening of
pterygoid canal
Motor: presynaptic parasympathetics pterygopalatine ganglion for innervation of lacrimal and nasal, palatine, and upper pharyngeal mucous glands
Greater splanchnic
5th–6th through 9th–10th
thoracic sympathetic ganglia
Highest abdominopelvic splanchnic
nerve; passes anteromedially on bodies
of thoracic vertebrae, piercing diaphragm
to converge on root of celiac trunk
they supply
Motor: conveys presynaptic sympathetics to celiac ganglia for innervation of celiac arteries and derivatives, and of that portion of gut
As continuation of superior hypogastric plexus into pelvis
Courses anteriorly to sacrum within
hypogastric sheath to merge with pelvic
splanchnic nerves in inferior hypogastric
Motor: conveys presynaptic and postsynaptic sympathetic fibers destined for pelvic viscera Sensory: conveys pain fibers from intraperitoneal pelvic viscera (e.g., fundus, body of uterus)
Hypoglossal (CN XII)
Between pyramid and olive
of myencephalon
Passes through hypoglossal canal, then
runs inferiorly and anteriorly, passing
medially to angle of mandible and
between mylohyoid and hyoglossus
to reach muscles of tongue
Motor: intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of tongue (exception: palatoglossus)
Lumbar plexus (L1 fibers)
Parallels iliac crest; pierces transverse
abdominal muscle; branches pierce
external oblique aponeurosis to reach
inguinal and pubic regions
Motor: internal oblique and transverse abdominal muscles
Sensory: lateral cutaneous branch supplies superolateral quadrant of buttocks, skin over iliac crest, and hypogastric region
Lumbar plexus (L1 fibers)
Passes between 2nd and 3rd layers of abdominal muscles, passes through inguinal canal, and divides into femoral and scrotal or labial branches
Motor: lowermost part of internal oblique and transverse abdominal muscles
Sensory: femoral branch supplies skin over femoral triangle; genital branch supplies mons pubis and adjacent skin of labia majora or scrotum
Inferior alveolar
As terminal branch (with
lingual nerve) of posterior
trunk of mandibular nerve
(CN V3)
Descends between lateral and medial pterygoid muscles of infratemporal fossa to enter mandibular canal of mandible
Sensory: lower teeth, periodontium, periosteum, and gingiva of lower jaw. SEE ALSO nerve to mylohyoid, mental nerve
Inferior anal (rectal)
Pudendal nerve (S2–S4
Arises at entry to pudendal canal (ischial spine), courses medially through ischioanal fat pad to anal canal
Motor: external anal sphincter
Sensory: anoderm, perianal skin
Inferior gluteal
Sacral plexus (L5–S2 fibers)
Leaves pelvis through greater sciatic foramen inferior to piriformis and divides into several branches
Motor: gluteus maximus
Terminal branch of maxillary
nerve (CN V2)
Runs in floor of orbit and emerges at infraorbital foramen
Sensory: skin of cheek, lower lid, lateral side of nose and inferior septum and upper lip, upper premolar incisors and canine teeth, mucosa of maxillary sinus and upper lip
Nasociliary nerve (CN V1)
Follows medial wall of orbit to upper eyelid
Sensory: skin and conjunctiva (lining) of upper eyelid
Anterior rami of T1–T11
Run in intercostal spaces between internal and innermost layers of intercostal muscles
Motor: intercostal muscles; lower nerves supply muscles of anterolateral abdominal wall
Sensory: skin overlying and pleura and peritoneum deep to muscles innervated
From the pons as a smaller
root of the facial nerve
Traverses internal acoustic meatus, merging at its distal end with larger (root of) facial nerve
Motor: presynaptic parasympathetics destined for pterygopalatine and submandibular ganglia through greater petrosal nerve and chorda tympani respectively
Sensory: taste from anterior two thirds of tongue and soft palate
Ophthalmic nerve (CN V1)
Passes through palpebral fascia of upper eyelid near lateral angle (canthus) of eye
Sensory: a small area of skin and conjunctiva of lateral part of upper eyelid
Lateral branch of median nerve
Median nerve as it enters
Runs laterally to palmar thumb and palm of hand radial side of index finger
Motor: 1st lumbrical
Sensory: skin of palmar and distal dorsal aspects of thumb and radial half of index finger
Lateral cutaneous nerve of
Continuation of musculo-
cutaneous nerve (C6–C7
Descends along lateral border of forearm to wrist
Sensory: skin of lateral aspect of forearm
Lateral cutaneous nerve of thigh
Lumbar plexus (L2–L3
Passes deep to inguinal ligament, 2–3 cm medial to anterior superior iliac spine
Sensory: skin on anterior and lateral aspects of thigh
Lateral pectoral
Lateral cord of brachial
plexus (C5–C7 fibers)
Pierces clavipectoral fascia to reach deep surface of pectoral muscles
Motor: primarily pectoralis major but sends a loop to medial pectoral nerve that innervates pectoralis minor
Lateral plantar
Smaller terminal branch of
the tibial nerve
(S1–S2 fibers)
Passes laterally in foot between quadratus plantae and flexor digitorum brevis muscles and divides into superficial and deep branches
Motor: quadratus plantae, abductor digiti minimi, flexor digiti minimi brevis; deep branch supplies plantar and dorsal interossei, lateral three lumbricals, and adductor hallucis Sensory: skin on sole lateral to a line splitting 4th digit
Least splanchnic
12th (lowest) thoracic
ganglion of sympathetic
Passes through diaphragm with sympathetic trunk and ends in renal plexus
Motor: presynaptic sympathetic to renal arteries and derivatives
Lesser occipital
Cervical plexus (C2–C3
Ascends posterosuperiorly, parallel to anterosuperior border of sternocleidomastoid
Sensory: skin of posterior surface of auricle and adjacent scalp
Lesser palatine
Pterygopalatine ganglion
(maxillary nerve—CN V2)
Passes inferiorly through palatine canal and lesser palatine foramen
Motor: postsynaptic parasympathetics to glands of soft palate Sensory: mucosa of soft palate
Lesser petrosal
Tympanic plexus (glosso-
pharyngeal nerve—CN IX)
Perforates tegmen tympani to exit tympanic cavity into middle cranial fossa; runs anteriorly to descend through sphenopetrosal fissure
Motor: conveys presynaptic parasympathetic fibers to otic ganglion for secretomotor innervation of parotid or foramen ovale gland
Lesser splanchnic
10th and 11th thoracic
ganglia of sympathetic trunk
Descends anteromedially to perforate diaphragm to reach aorticorenal ganglion
Motor: presynaptic sympathetics to prevertebral ganglia
Sensory: visceral afferents from upper gastrointestinal tract
Terminal branch (with inferior
alveolar nerve) of posterior
trunk of mandibular nerve
(CN V3)
Joined by chorda tympani in infratemporal fossa; passes anteroinferiorly between lateral and medial pterygoid muscles, and above mylohyoid to enter oral cavity
Motor: presynpatic parasympathetic fibers to submandibular ganglion for submandibular and sublingual salivary glands
Sensory: anterior two thirds of tongue, floor of mouth, and lingual mandibular gingiva
Long thoracic
Anterior rami of C5–C7
Descends posterior to C8 and T1 rami and passes distally on external surface of serratus anterior
Motor: serratus anterior
Lower subscapular
Posterior cord of brachial
plexus (C5–C6 fibers)
Passes inferolaterally, deep to subscapular artery and vein to subscapularis and and teres major
Motor: inferior portion of subscapularis teres major
Lumbar splanchnic
Lumbar ganglia of sympa-
thetic trunks
Pass anteromedially on bodies of lumbar vertebrae to prevertebral ganglia of paraaortic plexus
Motor: presynaptic sympathetics for lower abdominal and pelvic viscera Sensory: visceral afferents from same
Mandibular (CN V3)
Trigeminal ganglion (motor
root from pons)
Descends through foramen ovale into infratemporal fossa; divides into anterior and posterior trunks, anterior ramifying immediately into several smaller branches, posterior bifurcating into lingual and inferior alveolar nerves
Motor: muscles of mastication, mylohyoid, anterior belly of digastric, tensor tympani, and tensor veli palatini Sensory: skin overlying mandible (except angle), lower half of mouth (including teeth, gingiva, mucosa of floor and vestibule, and anterior two thirds of tongue), and temporo-mandibular joint
Anterior trunk of mandibular
nerve (CN V3)
Passes laterally through mandibular notch
Motor: masseter
Sensory: temporomandibular joint
Maxillary (CN V2)
Trigeminal ganglion
Runs anteriorly through foramen rotundum into pterygopalatine fossa, sending sensory roots to the pterygopalatine ganglion (branches of the ganglion are considered branches of the maxillary nerve); main trunk continues anteriorly through infraorbital fissure as infraorbital nerve
Motor: no motor fibers initially; branches of pterygopalatine ganglion distribute postsynaptic parasympathetic fibers to lacrimal gland and mucosalxglands of nasal cavity, palate, and upper pharynx Sensory: skin overlying maxilla, mucosa of posteroinferior nasal cavity and maxillary sinus; upper half of mouth (including teeth, gingiva, and mucosa of palate, vestibule, and cheek)
Medial branch of median
Median nerve as it enters
palm of hand
Runs medially to adjacent sides of index, middle, and ring fingers
Motor: 2nd lumbrical
Sensory: skin of palmar and distal dorsal aspects of adjacent sides of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th digits
Medial cutaneous nerve of arm
Medial cord of brachial
plexus (C8 and T1 fibers)
Runs along the medial side of axillary vein and communicates with intercostobrachial nerve
Sensory: skin on medial side of arm
Medial cutaneous nerve of forearm
Medial cord of brachial
plexus (C8 and T1 fibers)
Runs between axillary artery and vein
Sensory: skin over medial side of forearm
Medial cutaneous nerve of leg
Saphenous nerve
Descends medial side of leg with greater saphenous vein
Skin of anteromedial side of leg and medial side of foot
Medial dorsal cutaneous
Superficial fibular (peroneal)
Descends across ankle anteriorly running nerve onto medial aspect of dorsum of foot
Supplies most of skin of dorsum of foot; proximal portion of toes, except for web between great and 2nd toes
Medial pectoral
Medial cord of brachial
plexus (C8 and T1 fibers)
Passes between axillary artery and vein and enters deep surface of pectoralis minor
Motor: pectoralis minor and part of pectoralis major
Medial plantar
Larger terminal branch of
the tibial nerve (L4 and
L5 fibers)
Passes distally in foot between abductor hallucis and flexor digitorum brevis and divides into muscular and cutaneous branches
Motor: abductor hallucis, flexor digitorum brevis, flexor hallucis brevis, and 1st lumbrical
Sensory: skin of medial side of sole of foot and sides of 1st 3 digits
Arises by two roots, one
from the lateral cord of
brachial plexus (C6–C7
fibers) and one from medial
cord (C8 and T1 fibers);
roots join lateral to axillary
Over length of arm, crosses to medial side of brachial artery; exits cubital fossa between heads of pronator teres, running between intermediate and deep layers of anterior forearm compartment; becomes superficial proximal to wrist and passes deep to flexor retinaculum (transverse carpal ligament) as it passes through carpal tunnel to the hand
Motor: flexor muscles in forearm (except flexor carpi ulnaris, ulnar half of flexor digitorum profundus); thenar muscles (except adductor pollicis and deep head of flexor pollicis brevis), lateral lumbricals (for 2nd and 3rd) digits Sensory: skin of the palmar and distal dorsal aspects of the lateral (radial) 3-1/2 digits and adjacent palm
Terminal branch of inferior
alveolar nerve (CN V3)
Emerges from mandibular canal at mental foramen
Sensory: skin of chin; skin and mucosa of lower lip
Lateral cord of brachial
plexus (C5–C7 fibers)
Enters deep surface of coracobrachialis and descends between biceps brachii and brachialis
Motor: flexor muscles of arm (coracobrachialis, biceps brachii, and brachialis)
Sensory: continues as lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve
Ophthalmic nerve (CN V1)
Arises in superior orbital fissure, passes anteromedially across retrobulbar orbit, providing sensory root to ciliary ganglion and terminating as infratrochlear nerve and nasal branches
Motor: no motor fibers initially; branches of ciliary ganglion (short ciliary nerves) convey postsynapatic sympathetics and parasympathetics to ciliary body and iris
Sensory: tactile sensation from eyeball (conjunctiva and cornea); mucous membrane of ethmoidal cells and anterosuperior nasal cavity; skin of root, dorsum, and apex of nose
Pterygopalatine ganglion
(maxillary nerve—CN V2)
Exits pterygopalatine fossa through sphenopalatine foramen; crossing to and then running anteroinferiorly across nasal septum; passes through incisive foramen to palate
Motor: postsynaptic parasympathetics to mucosal glands of nasal septum Sensory: mucosa of nasal septum, anteriormost hard palate
Nerves to lateral/medial
Anterior trunk of mandibular
nerve (CN V3)
Arise in infratemporal fossa immediately inferior to foramen ovale
Motor: lateral and medial pterygoid muscles
Nerve to mylohyoid
Inferior alveolar nerve
Arises from posterior aspect of inferior alveolar nerve immediately outside man-dibular foramen; descends in bony groove on medial aspect of ramus of mandible
Motor: mylohyoid and anterior belly of digastric muscle
Nerve to obturator internus
Sacral plexus (L5, S1, and
Enters gluteal region through greater sciatic foramen inferior to piriformis; descends posteriorly to ischial spine; enters lesser sciatic foramen and passes to obturator internus
Motor: superior gemellus and obturator internus
Nerve of pterygoid canal
Formed by merger of greater
and deep petrosal nerves
Traverses pterygoid canal to reach pterygopalatine ganglion in pterygopalatine fossa
Motor: conveys postsynaptic sympathetic and presynaptic parasympathetic fibers to pterygopalatine ganglion
Nerve to quadratus femoris
Sacral plexus (L5, S1, and
Leaves pelvis through greater sciatic foramen deep to sciatic nerve
Motor: inferior gemellus and quadratus femoris
Sensory: hip joint
Nerve to stapedius muscle
Facial nerve (CN VII)
Arises as facial nerve descends posterior to muscle in facial canal
Motor: stapedius
Nerve to tensor tympani
Otic ganglion (mandibular
nerve—CN V3)
Courses along cartilaginous portion of pharyngotympanic (auditory) tube to hemicanal for tensor tympani
Motor: tensor tympani
Nerve to tensor veli palatini muscle
Anterior trunk of mandibular
nerve—(CN V3)
Arises as a branch of nerve to medial pterygoid
Motor: tensor veli palatini
Lumbar plexus
(L2–L4 fibers)
Enters thigh through obturator foramen and divides; its anterior branch descends between adductor longus and adductor brevis; its posterior branch descends between adductor brevis and adductor magnus
Motor: anterior branch supplies adductor longus, adductor brevis, gracilis, and pectineus; posterior branch supplies obturator externus and adductor magnus
Sensory: skin of medial thigh above knee
Oculomotor (CN III)
Interpeduncular fossa of
Pierces dura lateral to posterior clinoid process, runs in lateral wall of cavernous sinus, enters orbit through superior fissure and divides into superior and inferior branches
Motor: somatic: all extraocular muscles except superior oblique and lateral rectus; presynaptic paraorbital sympathetic fibers to ciliary ganglion for ciliary body and sphincter pupillae
Olfactory (CN I)
Olfactory cells in olfactory
epithelium (mucosa) of roof
of nasal cavity plate
Approximately 20 bundles of nerve fibers ascend through foramina of cribriform of ethmoid to reach olfactory bulbs (anterior cranial fossa)
Sensory: olfactory mucosa (sense of smell)
Ophthalmic (CN V1)
Trigeminal ganglion
Passes anteriorly in lateral wall of cavernous sinus to enter orbit through superior orbital fissure, branching into frontal, nasociliary, and lacrimal nerves
Sensory: general sensation from eyeball (conjunctiva and cornea); mucous membrane of ethmoidal cells and frontal sinus, dura of anterior cranial fossa, falx cerebri and tentorium cerebelli, anterosuperior nasal cavity; skin of forehead, upper lid; root, dorsum, and apex of nose
Optic (CN II)
Ganglion cells of retina
Exits orbit through optic canals; fibers from nasal half of retina cross to contralateral side at chiasm; fibers pass through optic tracts to geniculate bodies, superior colliculus, and pretectum
Sensory: vision from retina
Palmar cutaneous branch of
median nerve
Arises from median nerve
just proximal to flexor
Passes between tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis and runs superficially to flexor retinaculum
Sensory: skin of central palm
Palmar cutaneous branch of
ulnar nerve
Arises from ulnar nerve near
middle of forearm
Descends on ulnar artery and perforates deep fascia in the distal third of forearm
Sensory: skin at base of medial palm, overlying medial carpals
Pelvic splanchnic
Sacral plexus (S2–S4 fibers)
Run anteriorly and inferiorly to merge with inferior hypogastric plexus
Motor: presynaptic parasympathetic fibers for pelvic viscera, descending and sigmoid colon
Sensory: visceral afferent fibers from subperitoneal pelvic viscera (cervix of uterus and upper vagina, floor of bladder, rectum and upper anal canal; prostate)
Terminal branch (with dor-
sal nerve of penis or clitoris)
of pudendal nerve (S2–S4
Separates from pudendal nerve on exit from pudendal canal; runs to superficial perineum dividing into a superficial cutaneous branch (posterior labial/scrotal) and a deep motor branch triangle
Motor: muscles of urogenital triangle (superficial and deep perineal muscles)
Sensory: skin of posterior urogenital (posterior portion of labia
majora and minora, vestibule of vagina; posterior aspect of scrotum)
Pterygopalatine ganglion
Passes posteriorly through palatovaginal canal
Supplies mucosa of nasopharynx posterior to pharyngotympanic (auditory) tubes
Cervical plexus (C3–C5
Passes through superior thoracic aperture and runs between mediastinal pleura and pericardium
Motor: diaphragm
Sensory: pericardial sac, mediastinal and diaphragmatic pleura, and diaphragmatic peritoneum
Posterior auricular
As first extracranial branch
of facial nerve (CN VII)
Passes posterior to ear, sending branch to occipital region
Motor: posterior auricular muscle and intrinsic auricular muscles, occipital belly of occipitofrontalis (epicranius)
Posterior cutaneous nerve of arm
Radial nerve (C5–C8 fibers)
Emerges from under posterior border of deltoid, between long and lateral heads of triceps brachii
Sensory: skin of posterior aspect of arm
Posterior cutaneous nerve
of forearm
Arises in arm from radial
nerve (C5–C8 fibers)
Perforates lateral head of triceps and descends along lateral side of arm and posterior aspect of forearm to wrist
Sensory: skin of distal posterior arm, posterior aspect of forearm
Posterior cutaneous nerve of thigh
Sacral plexus (S1–S3 fibers)
Leaves pelvis through greater sciatic foramen inferior to piriformis, runs deep to gluteus maximus, and emerges from its inferior border
Sensory: skin of buttock through inferior cluneal branches and skin over posterior aspect of thigh and calf; lateral perineum, upper medial thigh through perineal branch
Posterior ethmoidal
Leaves orbit through posterior ethmoidal foramen
Supplies ethmoidal and sphenoidal paranasal sinuses
Posterior inferior nasal
Greater palatine
Arise in greater palatine canal, pierce through perpendicular plate of palatine bone
Mucosa of inferior nasal concha and walls of inferior and middle nasal meatuses
Posterior interosseous
Terminal branch of deep
branch of radial nerve
(continuation of deep radial
after emerging from
Runs between superficial and deep layers of posterior forearm, then passes between extensor pollicis longus and interosseous membrane
Motor: extensor carpi ulnaris, extensors of digits (including thumb), and abductor pollicis longus
Posterior labial
Perineal nerve
Emerge from pudendal canal and ramify in subcutaneous tissue
Skin of posterior portion of labium majus
Sacral plexus (S2–S4)
Enters gluteal region through greater sciatic foramen inferior to piriformis; descends posteriorly to sacrospinous ligament; enters perineum through lesser sciatic foramen
Supplies most motor and sensory innervation to perineum (supplies no structures in gluteal region)
Pulmonary plexus
Vagus nerve and cardio-
pulmonary splanchnic nerves
from sympathetic trunk
Forms on primary bronchi and extends along root of lung and bronchial subdivisions
Motor: parasympathetic fibers constrict bronchioles; sympathetic fibers dilate them
Terminal branch of posterior
cord of brachial plexus
(C5–C8 and T1 fibers)
Descends posterior to axillary artery; enters radial groove with deep brachial artery to pass between long and medial heads of triceps; bifurcates in cubital fossa into superficial and deep radial nerves
Motor: proximal to bifurcation, innervates triceps brachii, anconeus, brachioradialis, and extensor carpi radialis longus muscles
Sensory: skin on posterior aspect of arm and forearm via posterior cutaneous nerves of arm and forearm
Recurrent (thenar) branch
of median nerve
Median nerve immediately
distal to flexor retinaculum
Loops around distal border of flexor retinaculum and enters thenar muscles
Motor: abductor pollicis brevis, opponens pollicis, and superficial head of flexor pollicis brevis
Recurrent laryngeal
Vagus nerve (CN X)
Loops around subclavian on right; on left runs around arch of aorta and ascends in tracheoesophageal groove
Motor: intrinsic muscles of larynx (except cricothyroid)
Sensory: inferior to level of vocal folds
Femoral nerve
Descends with femoral vessels through femoral triangle and adductor canal, then descends with great saphenous vein
Sensory: skin on medial side of leg and foot
Sacral plexus (L4–S3 fibers)
Enters gluteal region through greater sciatic foramen inferiorly to piriformis, descends along posterior aspect of thigh, and divides proximally to knee into tibial and common fibular peroneal nerves
Motor: hamstrings by tibial division (except for short head of biceps femoris, which is innervated by its common fibular division)
Sensory: provides articular branches to hip and knee joints Motor: subclavius
Subclavian nerve
Superior trunk of brachial
plexus (C5–C6; often C4
as well)
Descends posterior to clavicle and anterior to brachial plexus and sub clavian artery
Sensory: sternoclavicular joint
Courses along inferior border of 12th rib in same manner as intercostal nerves
Motor: muscles of anterolateral abdominal wall
Sensory: lateral cutaneous branch supplies skin inferior to anterior iliac crest
Posterior ramus of C1
spinal nerve
Emerges between occipital bone and atlas, inferior to transverse part of vertebral artery, into suboccipital triangle; communicates with occipital nerve (C2)
Motor: suboccipital muscles (rectus capitis major and minor, obliquus capitis inferior and superior)
Superficial branch of
radial nerve
Continuation of radial nerve
after deep branch is given off
in cubital fossa
Passes distally, anterior to pronator teres and deep to brachioradialis; emerging to pierce deep fascia at wrist and pass onto dorsum of hand
Sensory: skin of lateral (radial) half of dorsum of hand and thumb, proximal portions of dorsal aspects of 2nd and 3rd digits, and of lateral (radial) half of 4th digit
Superficial branch of
ulnar nerve
Arise from ulnar nerve at
wrist as they pass between
pisiform and hamate bones
Passes palmaris brevis and divides into 2 common palmar digital nerves
Motor: palmaris brevis
Sensory: skin of palmar and distal dorsal aspects of 5th digit and of medial (ulnar) side of 4th digit and proximal portion of palm
Superficial fibular (peroneal)
Common fibular (peroneal)
Arises between fibularis longus and neck of fibula and descends in lateral compartment of leg; pierces deep fascia at distal third of leg to become cutaneous and send branches to foot and digits
Motor: fibularis (peroneus) longus and brevis
Sensory: skin on distal third of anterior surface of leg and dorsum of foot and all digits, except lateral side of 5th and adjoining sides of 1st and 2nd digits
Superior alveolar
Maxillary nerve (CN V2) or
its continuation as infra-
orbital nerve
Posterior: emerges from pterygomaxillary fissure into infratemporal fossa; pierces posterior aspect of maxilla
Middle and anterior: arises from infraorbital nerve in roof of maxillary sinus, descends walls of sinus
Sensory: mucosa of maxillary sinus, maxillary teeth, and gingiva
Superior gluteal
Sacral plexus (L4–S1 fibers)
Leaves pelvis through greater sciatic foramen superior to piriformis and runs between gluteus medius and minimus
Motor: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae
Superior laryngeal
Vagus (CN X)
Descends in parapharyngeal space; lateral to thyroid cartilage divides into internal and external laryngeal nerves; former pierces thyrohyoid membrane; latter runs inferomedially to gap between cricoid and thyroid cartilages
Motor: cricothyroid muscle (external laryngeal nerve)
Sensory: supraglottic
Supraclavicular (lateral,
intermediate, medial)
Cervical plexus (C3 and C4
Arise from a common trunk that emerges at center of posterior border of sterno-cleidomastoid; fan out as they descend onto lower neck, upper thorax, and shoulder
Sensory: skin of lower anterolateral neck, uppermost thorax, and shoulder
Continuation of frontal nerve (CN V1)
Emerges through supraorbital notch, or foramen, and breaks up into small branches
Sensory: mucous membrane of frontal sinus and conjunctiva (lining) of upper eyelid; skin of forehead as far as vertex
Superior trunk of brachial
plexus (C5–C6; often C4 also)
Passes laterally across posterior triangle of neck, through scapular notch under superior transverse scapular ligament
Motor: supraspinatus, infraspinatus muscles
Sensory: superior and posterior glenohumeral (shoulder) joint
Frontal nerve (CN V1)
Passes superiorly on medial of supraorbital nerve and divides into 2 or more branches
Sensory: skin in middle of forehead to hairline
Usually arises from merging of medial and lateral sural cutaneous nerves from tibial and common fibular (peroneal) nerves, respectively l
Descends between heads of gastrocnemius and becomes superficial at middle of leg; descends with small saphenous vein and passes posterior to lateral malleolus to ateral side of foot
Sensory: skin on posterior and lateral aspects of leg and lateral side of foot
Intracranial portion of
ophthalmic nerve (CN V1)
Arises as recurrent branch passing abruptly posteriorly around margins of tentorial notch onto superior aspect of tentorium cerebelli and ascending posterior limb of falx cerebri
Sensory: supratentorial dura mater (superior aspect of tentorium cerebri and falx cerebri)
Thoracic splanchnic
Thoracic ganglia of
sympathetic trunk
Pass anteromedially on bodies of
thoracic vertebrae as lower cardiopulmonary splanchnic nerves to thoracic autonomic plexuses (cardiac, pulmonary, and esophageal) and as upper abdominopelvic splanchnic nerves to prevertebral ganglia of paraaortic plexus
Motor: splanchnic nerves from 1st through 5th thoracic ganglia convey postsynaptic sympathetic fibers to heart, lungs, and esophagus; those from 6th through 12th thoracic ganglia (i.e., greater, lesser, and least splanchnic nerves) convey presynaptic sympathetic fibers to prevertebral ganglia
Continuation of lower inter-
costal nerves (T7–T11)
Cross costal margin to run between 2nd and 3rd layers of abdominal muscles
Motor: anterolateral abdominal muscles
Sensory: overlying skin, underlying peritoneum, and periphery of diaphragm
Posterior cord of brachial
plexus (C6–C8 fibers)
Arises between upper and lower subscapular nerves and runs inferolaterally along posterior axillary wall to latissimus dorsi
Motor: latissimus dorsi
Sciatic nerve (L4–S3 fibers)
Forms as sciatic bifurcates at apex of popliteal fossa; descends through popliteal fossa and lies on popliteus; runs inferiorly on tibialis posterior with posterior tibial vessels; terminates beneath flexor retinaculum by dividing into medial and lateral plantar nerves
Motor: muscles of posterior compartment of thigh (except short head of biceps), popliteal fossa, posterior compartment of leg, and sole of foot
Sensory: knee joint; skin of leg (through medial sural), and sole of foot (through medial and lateral plantar nerves)
Transverse cervical
Cervical plexus (C2 and C3
Emerges from middle of posterior border of sternocleidomastoid muscle; runs anteriorly across muscle
Sensory: skin overlying anterior triangle of neck
Trigeminal (CN V)
Lateral surface of pons by 2
roots: motor and sensory
Roots cross medial part of crest of petrous part of temporal bone, entering trigeminal cave of dura mater lateral to body of sphenoid and cavernous sinus; sensory root leads to trigeminal ganglion; motor root bypasses ganglion, becoming part of mandibular nerve (CN V3)
Motor: somatic: muscles of mastication, mylohyoid, anterior belly of digastric, tensor tympani, and tensor veli palatini; visceral: distributes postsynaptic parasympathetic fibers of head to their destinations
Sensory: dura of anterior and middle cranial fossae, facial skin, teeth, gingiva, mucosa, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, and mouth
Trochlear (CN IV)
Dorsolateral aspect of
mesencephalon below infe-
rior colliculus (only cranial nerve to emerge from dorsal aspect of brainstem)
Runs longest intracranial course, passing around brainstem to enter dura in free edge of tentorium close to posterior clinoid process; runs in lateral wall of cavernous sinus, entering orbit via superior orbital fissure
Motor: superior oblique muscle
As 1st extracranial branch of glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX), from inferior (petrosal) glossopharyngeal ganglion
Passes in recurrent manner into tympanic canaliculus, entering tympanic cavity and ramifying on promontory of labyrinthine wall as tympanic plexus
Motor: conveys presynaptic parasympathetic fibers that will reach otic ganglion for secretomotor innervation of parotid gland Sensory: mucosa of tympanic cavity, mastoid cells, and pharyngotympanic (auditory) tube
Terminal branch of medial
cord of brachial plexus (C8
and T1 fibers; often also
receives C7 fibers)
Terminal branch of medial cord of brachial plexus (C8 and T1 fibers; often also receives C7 fibers)
Motor: most intrinsic muscles of hand (hypothenar, interosseous, adductor pollicis, and deep head of flexor pollicis brevis, plus medial lumbricals [for 4th and 5th digits])
Sensory: skin of palmar and distal dorsal aspects of medial (ulnar) 1-1/2 digits and adjacent palm
Upper subscapular
Branch of posterior cord of
brachial plexus (C5 and C6
Passes posteriorly and enters subscapularis
Motor: superior portion of subscapularis
Vagus (CN X)
Through 8–10 rootlets from
medulla of brainstem
Enters superior mediastinum posteriorly to sternoclavicular joint and brachio-cephalic vein; gives rise to recurrent laryngeal nerve; continues into abdomen
Motor: voluntary muscle of larynx and upper esophagus; involuntary muscle and glands of tracheobronchial tree, gut (to left colic flexure), and heart through pulmonary plexus, esophageal plexus, and cardiac plexus Sensory: pharynx, larynx, reflex afferents from same areas as above
As a division of vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII)
Traverses internal acoustic meatus to reach vestibular ganglion at fundus; branches pass to vestibule of bony labyrinth
Sensory: cristae of ampullae of semicircular ducts, maculae of saccule and utricle (for sense of equilibration)
Vestibulocochlear (CN VIII)
Groove between pons and
Traverses internal acoustic meatus,
dividing into cochlear and vestibular
Sensory: spiral organ (for sense of hearing) and cristae of ampullae of semicircular ducts, maculae of saccule and utricle (for sense of equilibration)
Maxillary nerve (CN V2)
Arises in floor of orbit, divides into
zygomaticofacial and zygomaticotemporal
nerves, which traverse foramina of same
name; communicating branch joins
lacrimal nerve
Sensory: skin over zygomatic arch and anterior temporal region
Motor: conveys secretory postsynaptic parasympathetic fibers from ptery-gopalatine ganglion to lacrimal gland
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