Learning Modules - Medical Gross Anatomy
Autonomics of the Head and Neck - Page 4 of 14

The parasympathetic stories

There are 4 pairs of parasympathetic ganglia in the head, with 4 stories to go with them.

Although 4 cranial nerves have brainstem nuclei containing preganglionic parasympathetic neurons, only 3 of these nerves have branches that reach these 4 ganglia - the vagus nerve (X) never has any named, discrete ganglion associated with it, only diffuse ganglia in organ walls.

The 4 ganglia and their associated cranial nerves are the:
  1. ciliary ganglion - oculomotor nerve (III)
  2. pterygopalatine ganglion - facial nerve (VII)
  3. submandibular ganglion - facial nerve (VII)
  4. otic ganglion - glossopharyngeal nerve (IX)

Branches of trigeminal nerve (V) carry pre- and postganglionic fibers around the head, but trigeminal nerve does not have any preganglionic nuclei of its own.

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