Quantitative study of muscle spindles in suboccipital muscles of human foetuses

Neurol India. 2001 Dec;49(4):355-9.


The proprioceptive inputs from the cervical musculature play an important role in head-eye co-ordination and postural processes. Deep cervical muscles in humans are shown to have high spindle content. The density, distribution and morphology of muscle spindles were studied in superior oblique capitis, inferior oblique capitis and rectus capitis posterior major and minor three small suboccipital muscles. The muscles were obtained, post-mortem from stillborn human foetus. The spindle density was calculated as the ratio of mean spindle content to the mean wet weight of that muscle in grams. The distribution and arrangement of spindles within the muscle and their arrangement was studied. The spindle density of superior oblique muscle was found to be 190, that of inferior oblique was 242 and the rectus capitis posterior contained 98 spindles per gram of muscle. No tendon organs were seen. The serial transverse sections of inferior oblique muscle revealed muscle spindles of varying sizes, length varying between 100-650 microns and, diameter 50-250 microns. A complex parallel arrangements of group of large spindles were seen in the belly of the inferior oblique muscle, while the polar regions contain few small isolated spindles. The relevance of such high spindle receptor content in these tiny muscles is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Fetus / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spindles / embryology*
  • Neck Muscles / embryology*
  • Occipital Bone / embryology