A Review of the History, Anatomy, and Development of the C1 Spinal Nerve

World Neurosurg. 2020 Mar;135:352-356. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2019.12.024. Epub 2019 Dec 12.


The C1 spinal nerve is a fascinating anatomic structure owing to its wide range of variations. Throughout history, understanding of the cranial and spinal nerves has probably influenced the current conception of this nerve among anatomists. Located at the craniocervical junction, the C1 spinal nerve contributes to the motor innervation of deep cervical muscles through the cervical (anterior) and Cruveilhier's (posterior) plexuses. Sensory functions of this nerve are more enigmatic; despite investigations into its dorsal rootlets, a dorsal root ganglion, and the relationships between this nerve and adjacent cranial and spinal nerves, there is still no consensus regarding its true anatomy. In this article, we review the available literature and discuss some of the developmental models that could potentially explain the wide range of variations and functions of the C1 nerve.

Keywords: C1 spinal nerve; Development; Occipital neuralgia; Review; Suboccipital nerve.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Plexus / anatomy & histology
  • Cervical Plexus / embryology
  • Cervical Plexus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Spinal Nerves / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Nerves / embryology
  • Spinal Nerves / physiology*