Spinal Accessory Motor Neurons in the Mouse: A Special Type of Branchial Motor Neuron?

Charles Watson, Petr Tvrdik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The spinal accessory nerve arises from motor neurons in the upper cervical spinal cord. The axons of these motor neurons exit dorsal to the ligamentum denticulatum and form the spinal accessory nerve. The nerve ascends in the spinal subarachnoid space to enter the posterior cranial fossa through the foramen magnum. The spinal accessory nerve then turns caudally to exit through the jugular foramen alongside the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves, and then travels to supply the sternomastoid and trapezius muscles in the neck. The unusual course of the spinal accessory nerve has long prompted speculation that it is not a typical spinal motor nerve and that it might represent a caudal remnant of the branchial motor system. Our cell lineage tracing data, combined with images from public databases, show that the spinal accessory motor neurons in the mouse transiently express Phox2b, a transcription factor that is required for development of brain stem branchial motor nuclei. While this is strong prima facie evidence that the spinal accessory motor neurons should be classified as branchial motor, the evolutionary history of these motor neurons in anamniote vertebrates suggests that they may be considered to be an atypical branchial group that possesses both branchial and somatic characteristics. Anat Rec, 302:505-511, 2019. (c) 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-511
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


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