Lower motor neuron
Anatomical terms of neuroanatomy

Lower motor neurons (LMNs) are motor neurons located in either the anterior grey column, anterior nerve roots (spinal lower motor neurons) or the cranial nerve nuclei of the brainstem and cranial nerves with motor function (cranial nerve lower motor neurons).[1] Many voluntary movements rely on spinal lower motor neurons, which innervate skeletal muscle fibers and act as a link between upper motor neurons and muscles.[2][3] Cranial nerve lower motor neurons also control some voluntary movements of the eyes, face and tongue, and contribute to chewing, swallowing and vocalization.[4] Damage to the lower motor neurons can lead to flaccid paralysis, absent deep tendon reflexes and muscle atrophy.


Lower motor neurons are classified based on the type of muscle fiber they innervate:[5]


See also: Skeletal muscle § Cellular physiology and contraction, and Muscle contraction § Skeletal muscle

Glutamate released from the upper motor neurons triggers depolarization in the lower motor neurons in the anterior grey column, which in turn causes an action potential to propagate the length of the axon to the neuromuscular junction where acetylcholine is released to carry the signal across the synaptic cleft to the postsynaptic receptors of the muscle cell membrane, signaling the muscle to contract.

Clinical significance

Main article: lower motor neuron lesion

Damage to lower motor neurons, lower motor neuron lesions (LMNL) cause muscle wasting (atrophy), decreased strength and decreased reflexes in affected areas. These findings are in contrast to findings in upper motor neuron lesions. LMNL is indicated by abnormal EMG potentials, fasciculations, paralysis, weakening of muscles, and neurogenic atrophy of skeletal muscle. Bell's palsy, bulbar palsy, poliomyelitis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are all pathologies associated with lower motor neuron dysfunction.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ Fletcher, T.F. "Clinical Neuroanatomy Guide". Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  2. ^ Burke, Robert (2007). "Sir Charles Sherrington's The integrative action of the nervous system: a centenary appreciation". Brain. 130 (4): 887–894. doi:10.1093/brain/awm022. PMID 17438014.
  3. ^ Bear, Connors, Paradiso (2007). Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 426–432. ISBN 978-0-7817-6003-4.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Saim, Muhammad (17 April 2012). "Upper and Lower Motor Neurons". Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  5. ^ Floeter, Mary Kay (2010). Karpati, George; Hilton-Jones, David; Bushby, Kate; Griggs, Robert C (eds.). Structure and function of muscle fibers and motor units (PDF) (8th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1, Motor Neurons, pp. 1-2. ISBN 978-0-521-87629-2. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Sanders, RD (January 2010). "The Trigeminal (V) and Facial (VII) Cranial Nerves: Head and Face Sensation and Movement". Psychiatry (Edgmont). 7 (1): 13–6. PMC 2848459. PMID 20386632.
  7. ^ Van den Berg; et al. (November 2003). "The spectrum of lower motor neuron syndromes". J. Neurol. 250 (11): 1279–92. doi:10.1007/s00415-003-0235-9. PMID 14648143. S2CID 25844355.