Intramuscular innervation of primate extraocular muscles: Unique compartmentalization in horizontal recti

Roberta Martins da Silva Costa, Jennifer Kung, Vadims Poukens, Lawrence Yoo, Lawrence Tychsen, Joseph L. Demer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. It has been proposed that the lateral rectus (LR), like many skeletal and craniofacial muscles, comprises multiple neuromuscular compartments subserving different physiological functions. To explore the anatomic potential of compartmentalization in all four rectus extraocular muscles (EOMs), evidence was sought of possible regional selectivity in intramuscular innervation of all rectus EOMs. METHODS. Whole orbits of two humans and one macaque monkey were serially sectioned at 10 μm thickness and stained with Masson's trichrome. Three-dimensional reconstruction was performed of the intramuscular courses of motor nerves from the deep orbit to the anterior extents of their arborizations within all four rectus EOMs in each orbit. RESULTS. Findings concorded in monkey and human orbits. Externally to the global surface of the lateral (LR) and medial rectus (MR) EOMs, motor nerve trunks bifurcated into approximately equal-sized branches before entering the global layer and observing a segregation of subsequent arborization into superior zones that exhibited minimal overlap along the length of the LR and only modest overlap for MR. In contrast, intramuscular branches of the superior and the nasal portion of the inferior rectus were highly mixed. CONCLUSIONS. Consistent segregation of intramuscular motor nerve arborization suggests functionally distinct superior and inferior zones within the horizontal rectus EOMs in both humans and monkeys. Reduced or absent compartmentalization in vertical rectus EOMs supports a potential functional role for differential innervation in horizontal rectus zones that could mediate previously unrecognized vertical oculorotary actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2830-2836
Number of pages7
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2011


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