The Trigeminal System

  • Harold H Traurig


The trigeminal nerve, cranial nerve V, provides sensory innervation to the face and structures in the oral and nasal cavities; in addition, its motor component innervates the muscles of mastication and other skeletal muscles. Fine (discriminatory) tactile, general (light) tactile, proprioceptive, thermal, and pain sensory modalities are conveyed to the trigeminal nuclei in the brain stem. Axons from the sensory trigeminal nuclei contribute to important reflex circuits and relay sensory modalities to the thalamus for further integration. Thalamocortical projections relay sensations to the face area of the contralateral cerebral hemisphere, specifically the postcentral gyrus.

The trigeminal system is frequently involved in important clinical conditions because its peripheral and central components have extensive anatomic distributions in the face, cranial cavity and brain stem.

Peripherial Distribution of the Trigeminal Nerve

The Three Divisions of the Trigeminal Nerve



Trigeminal Nerve Trigeminal Neuralgia Trigeminal Ganglion Trigeminal Nucleus Sensory Innervation 
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The invaluable assistance of Ms. Mary Gail Engle and Dr. Bruce Maley, University of Kentucky, in the preparation of illustrations for this chapter is greatly appreciated. Professor Marina Del Fiacco, University of Cagliari, Monserrato, Italy, provided the illustrations of immunohistochemical preparations for SP and CGRP in the human trigeminal system (Fig. 4). Her generosity is greatly appreciated. The Weigert-stained sections of human brain stem were photographed from the Yakovlev Collection housed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC.

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Copyright information

© Humana Press, Totowa, NJ 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold H Traurig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyUniversity of Kentucky College of MedicineLexingtonUSA

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