Muscle spindles are concentrated in the superior vocalis subcompartment of the human thyroarytenoid muscle

Ira Sanders, Yingshi Han, Jun Wang, Hugh Biller

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35 Scopus citations


It is hypothesized that different parts of the thyroarytenoid muscle (TA) are functionally specialized. Specifically, the TA is divided into a lateral muscularis compartment and a medial vocalis compartment. This study examined the distribution of muscle spindles throughout the human TA as an indicator of these functional differences. Histological cross-sections from the anterior, middle, and posterior regions of five human membranous vocal folds were examined for the number and location of muscle spindles. There was an average of 6.1 muscle spindles in sections from each region with no significant variation between the different regions (p < .05). However, in sections from all three regions, the muscle spindles were always found to be concentrated in the superior medial quadrant of the TA (mean 85.9%, p < .01). The inferior medial, superior lateral, and inferior lateral quadrants of the TA contained 11.96%, 2.17%, and 0%, respectively, of the total muscle spindles. Within the superior medial quadrant, most of the muscle spindles were localized in the most superficial part of the muscle. The results of this study demonstrate that the majority of TA muscle spindles are concentrated in its superior medial quadrant, an area we have termed the superior vocalis subcompartment (SC). This finding suggests that the superior vocalis SC is functionally distinct from the remainder of the TA. It is hypothesized that tension in the superior vocalis SC can be controlled independently from the remainder of the TA, and this capability is used to effect the biomechanics of vocal fold vibration during phonation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-16
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Voice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Larynx
  • Muscle spindle
  • Thyroarytenoid muscle
  • Vocal fold
  • Vocalis
  • Voice


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