Vomeronasal Organ and Nervus Terminalis

  • Michael Meredith
Part of the Readings from the Encyclopedia of Neuroscience book series (REN)


General description, anatomy, and distribution. The vomeronasal organ (VNO), or Jacobson’s organ, is a chemoreceptor organ, present in most tetrapod species, that is important in intraspecific chemical (pheromone) communication. The paired organs are separate from the main olfactory organ, being enclosed within the vomer bone or cartilage at each side of the base of the nasal septum in most species. The vomeronasal lumen is partially lined with chemosensory vomeronasal epithelium. This epithelium contains bipolar receptor neurons similar to those of the main olfactory epithelium except that, as a rule, they lack cilia (although cilia are reported in the dog). There is renewal of receptor cells after axotomy and degeneration and there may be continuous replacement of receptors, as in the main olfactory epithelium. The organ is present in human fetuses but in most cases is absent in adults. A large proportion (more than 50%) of clinically examined adults has vomeronasal duct openings in the nasal septum, but there are as yet no reliable reports of a functional sensory epithelium in adults.


Nasal Septum Luteinizing Hormone Release Hormone Main Olfactory Bulb Vomeronasal Organ Incisive Canal 
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Further reading

  1. Demski LS, Northcutt RG (1983): The terminal nerve: A new chemosensory system in vertebrates? Science 220:435–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Halpern M (1983): Nasal chemical senses in snakes. In: Advances in Vertebrate Neuroethology, Ewert JP, Capranica R, Ingle DJ. New York: Plenum Press, pp 141–176Google Scholar
  3. Meredith M (1983): Sensory physiology of pheromone communication. In: Pheromones and Reproduction in Mammals. Vandenbergh JK, ed. New York: Academic Press, pp 199–252Google Scholar
  4. Meredith M (1983): Vomeronasal lesions before sexual experience impair male mating behavior in hamsters. Proc Int Union Physiol Sci 15:368Google Scholar
  5. Tucker D (1971): Nonolfactory responses from the nasal cavity: Jacobson’s organ and the trigeminal system. In: Handbook of Sensory Physiology IV Pt 1 Olfaction, Beidler LM, ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp 151–181Google Scholar
  6. Winans SS, Lehman MN, Powers JB (1982): Vomeronasal and olfactory CNS pathways which control hamster mating behavior. In: Olfaction and Endocrine Regulation, Breipohl W, ed. London: IRL Press, pp 23–34Google Scholar
  7. Wysocki CJ (1982): The vomeronasal organ: Its influence upon reproductive behavior and underlying endocrine systems. In: Olfaction and Endocrine Regulation. Briepohl W, ed. London: IRL Press, pp 195–208Google Scholar
  8. Wysocki CJ (1979): Neurobehavioral evidence for the involvement of the vomeronasal system in mammalian reproduction. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 3:301–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston, Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Meredith

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