Neural connections in and around the cavernous sinus in rat, with special reference to cerebrovascular innervation

R L Bleys, G J Groen, R F Hommersom

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There is a confluence in and around the cavernous sinus of neural pathways innervating the intracranial structures. To determine the patterns of innervation, particularly of the cerebral arteries, we stained whole-mount preparations of the cavernous sinus and adjacent regions of the rat for acetylcholinesterase. The cavernous nerve plexus, with several small ganglia, mainly occupied the lateral wall of the sinus and extended laterally above the ophthalmic and maxillary divisions of the trigeminal nerve, in relation to the oculomotor and trochlear nerves. The cavernous plexus was connected to the pterygopalatine ganglion, the trigeminal ganglion, and the abducens nerve. The elongated pterygopalatine ganglion consisted of an orbital part, from which parasympathetic fibers ran to the cerebral arteries, and a cavernous part. Nerves from the lateral extension of the cavernous plexus ran rostrally into the orbit along the oculomotor, trochlear, and ophthalmic nerves, and caudally to the pineal gland along the trochlear nerve. Several branches also ran over the dura mater. Caudal to the cavernous sinus, we found two large nerves and a number of small nerves that ran between the nerves surrounding the internal carotid artery and the abducens nerve. These nerves may represent additional parasympathetic and/or sensory pathways to the cerebral arteries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-91
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996


  • Animals
  • Cavernous Sinus
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers
  • Neural Pathways
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


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