Mapping Sensory Nerve Communications Between Peripheral Nerve Territories, 2014

Topics: dermatomes; nerve; communications; map; cutaneous; sensory



The human cutaneous sensory map has been a work in progress over the past century, depicting sensory territories supplied by both the spinal and cranial nerves. Two critical discoveries, which shaped our understanding of cutaneous innervation, were sensory dermatome overlap between contiguous spinal levels and axial lines across areas where no sensory overlap exists. These concepts define current dermatome maps. We wondered whether the overlap between contiguous sensory territories was even tighter: if neural communications were present in the peripheral nerve territories consistently connecting contiguous spinal levels? A literature search using peer-reviewed articles and established anatomy texts was performed aimed at identifying the presence of communications between sensory nerves in peripheral nerve territories and their relationship to areas of adjacent and non-adjacent spinal or cranial nerves and axial lines (lines of discontinuity) in the upper and lower limbs, trunk and perineum, and head and neck regions. Our findings demonstrate the consistent presence of sensory nerve communications between peripheral nerve territories derived from spinal nerves within areas of axial lines in the upper and lower limbs, trunk and perineum, and head and neck. We did not find examples of communications crossing axial lines in the limbs or lines of discontinuity in the face, but did find examples crossing axial lines in the trunk and perineum. Sensory nerve communications are common. They unify concepts of cutaneous innervation territories and their boundaries, and refine our understanding of the sensory map of the human skin.

Related research articles