The Spinal Nerves

Each spinal nerve has a dorsal (posterior) root that passes dorsally toward the back of the spinal cord and a ventral (anterior) root that passes ventrally toward the front of the spinal cord.





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Each spinal nerve is composed of numerous nerve fibers (axons) bound together by connective tissues. Each nerve fiber is surrounded by a basal lamina and connective tissue called endoneurium. The nerve fibers are in bundles and are wrapped in a sheath called the perineurium. The perineurium is composed of up to 20 layers of squamous epithelial-like cells. Several nerve bundles (fascicles) are then bundled together and wrapped in a dense irregular fibrous connective tissue called epineurium.


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A ganglion is a cluster of cell bodies (somas) outside the CNS. It is enveloped in an epineurium.  Among the somas are bundles of nerve fibers leading into and out of the ganglion









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Spinal Nerves

There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves:

8 cervical (C1 - C8)

12 thoracic (T1 - T12)

5 lumbar (L1 - L5)

5 sacral (S1 - S5)

1 coccygeal (Co1)


Cutaneous Innervation and Dermatomes

Each spinal nerve except C1 receives sensory input from a specific area of skin called a dermatome as demonstrated below. Spinal nerve damage is assessed by testing the dermatomes with pinpricks and noting areas in which the patient has no sensation.










There are four major spinal nerve plexuses: the cervical plexus, the brachial plexus, the lumbar plexus, and the sacral plexus.



Cervical Plexus

The cervical plexus is formed by the ventral rami (branches) of C1–C4. Most of these rami are branches of the cutaneous nerves of the neck, ear, back of head and shoulders.

It also contains the major motor and sensory nerves of the diaphragm.






Brachial Plexus

The brachial plexus is formed by C6 - C8 and T1, although C4 and T2 may also contribute. This plexus gives rise to nerves that innervate the upper limbs.





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Lumbar Plexus

The lumbar plexus arises from L1 - L4 and innervates the thigh, the abdominal wall and psoas muscles. It also forms the femoral nerve and obturator nerve.









Sacral Plexus

The sacral plexus arises from L4 - S4 and serves the buttock, lower limb, pelvis structures and the perineum. Its major nerve is the sciatic nerve, the longest and thickest nerve of the body.




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Visceral Reflexes


Somatic Reflexes



Reflex Arc



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Identify on the spinal cord the various spinal nerve plexus


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Test Yourself



 Toggle open/close quiz question

Which part of the spinal cord contains somas (neuron cell bodies) of somatic motor neurons? 


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The ascending tracts of the spinal cord are located in the